The Philippines is currently replaying the failed War on Drugs scenario that America perpetuated for decades and is heading down the same path and serves to remind us all that drug addiction has no easy or intuitive solution. The War on Drugs criminalized addiction and use but did so in order to stop the supply of drugs. The idea was that by imprisoning the demand, the supply can be stamped out since simply going after the supply didn’t stop addiction.
In a vacuum void of modern knowledge of what addiction is, how it works, where human rights violations don’t exist, where prisons aren’t ill equipped to rehab inmates back into productive society, this approach would seem completely sound. If there’s no supply, then how could a demand possibly exist for a product which is not a necessity?
Looking into the issue itself, we can see that this same approach has been tried before and resulted in a bigger problem than when the proposed solution was put into place with a drug everyone reading this has likely tried and likely saw some of it being sold today while out and about: alcohol. Prohibition in the 20’s was a reaction to the alcoholism that was appearing around society in an ever increasing wealth gap divide, as productivity soared while wages continued to drop. The US government passed a constitutional amendment which only stayed in action for just 13 years. Making the substance itself illegal, users criminals, suppliers outlaws and distributors sneaky introduced an uptick of crime itself, and not just the criminality of imbibing in a scotch after work on Friday.
Many have argued very convincingly that the infamous Italian Mob gain prominence by giving them a monopoly on the supply of alcohol. Individual demand didn’t dip whatsoever. With money to be made, the fact that people buying the product were also deemed criminals didn’t have the desired outcome of eliminating, or even reducing, alcoholism and alcohol use. People would end up dying from batches of product made with poison in bathtubs. Public intoxication was still a thing, alcoholics still would find a way to buy, and suppliers were always around to supply.
Even in the face of modern psychologists making the case directly with modern data and research, the Presidential spokesperson of the Philippines, Salvador Panelo doubled down on the violent tactics currently employed for ‘stopping drug use’. Many Americans echo his sentiments, though, even today. After presented with the lack of desired outcome of the solution of instituting draconian drug laws which has only had the same effect of the American War on Drugs (exploding the prison population and doing nothing to deal with the demand side of the equation) and prohibition (giving cartels a monopoly backed up with violence), he stated “Ineffective where? Why not? We have reduced, dismantled in fact a huge chunk of the illegal drug apparatus.” Unfortunately, the huge chunk dismantled is primarily the people with the illness of addiction, which is akin to putting people in prison for having cancer.
Massive amounts of otherwise rational people being put into prison for an illness that has treatment has repeatedly shown to be a non-starter solution. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, calling the a south Florida rehab center like 1st Step Behavioral Health at (866) 319-6126 will connect you with a specialist that can confidentially discuss treatment options. 1st Step offers residential detox and is equipped to medically handle oxycodone withdrawal symptoms as well.