Why The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure


Over 40 years ago,
US President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse
public enemy number one, starting an unprecedented global campaign,
the War on Drugs. Today, the numbers are in. The War on Drugs is a huge failure,
with devastating unintended consequences. It led to mass incarceration in the US; to corruption, political destabilization,
and violence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; to systemic human rights
abuses across the world. It negatively affected the
lives of millions of people. All of this while we waste
billions of dollars every year only to create and fuel
powerful drug cartels while the goal of the War on Drugs
seems less achievable than ever: a world without drugs. How could this happen? The core strategy of the War on Drugs is
“no drugs, no problems”. So almost all of the efforts
in the last few decades have been focused on eradicating
the supply of drugs and incarcerating drug traffickers. But this ignores the most
fundamental of market forces, supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of anything
without reducing the demand first, its price goes up. This might lower sales for many products,
but not for drugs. The drugs market is not price-sensitive. Drugs will be consumed
no matter what they cost. So the effect is to encourage
production of more drugs and recruitment of more traffickers,
which increases availability. This is also known as the balloon effect:
even if drug production or a major supply route is destroyed, the
supply for the end user is not reduced. A perfect example of this is crystal meth. The US Government tried
to stop its production by strictly regulating the sale of
chemicals used to manufacture the drug. This forced big meth producers
out of business, but the unintended consequences were that
thousands of small-scale operations started all over the country, mostly
in small towns and rural communities, using chemicals that weren’t regulated. In response to this, some US states wanted
to reduce the supply of home-grown meth by regulating even more chemicals, which reduced small-scale
meth production drastically. But the supply of
meth still stayed the same. Mexican drug cartels immediately took over
and opened big production operations. Their meth was even better
than it was before, and they had lots of
experience in smuggling. So all these efforts made meth
production more professional, the drug more potent, while
supply wasn’t reduced at all. You can’t win this war on the supply side. Not only are drugs widely available,
demand unbroken, and some drugs purer than in the past,
with a budget of around $30 billion, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has
an efficiency rate of less than 1% when it comes to stopping
the flow of drugs into the US and inside the US. For many minors around the world, it’s
as easy to get illegal drugs as alcohol. But it doesn’t stop here. Prohibition may prevent a certain
amount of people from taking drugs, but in the process it causes huge
damage to society as a whole. Many of the problems we
associate with drug use are actually caused by
the war against them. For example, prohibition
makes drugs stronger. The more potent drugs you can store
in as little space as possible, the more profit you’ll make. It was the same during
alcohol prohibition, which led to an increased consumption
of strong liquor over beer. The prohibition of drugs also led to more
violence and murders around the world. Gangs and cartels have no access to
the legal system to settle disputes, so they use violence. This led to an ever-increasing
spiral of brutality. According to some estimates,
the homicide rate in the US is 25–75% higher because of
the War on Drugs. And in Mexico, the country
on the frontline, an estimated 164,000 have been
murdered between 2007 and 2014, more people than in the war zones
of Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period, combined. But where the War on Drugs might do
the most damage to society is the incarceration of
non-violent drug offenders. For example, the United States, one of the driving forces
of the War on Drugs, has 5% of the world’s total population,
but 25% of the world’s prison population, largely due to the harsh
punishments and mandatory minimums. Minorities suffer
because of this especially. African Americans make up
40% of all US prison inmates. And while white kids are
more likely to abuse drugs, black kids are 10 times more likely
to get arrested for drug offenses. OK, but is there actually
something different we could do? Is there a way out of this mess? In the 1980s, Switzerland experienced a public health crisis
related to heroin use. HIV rates skyrocketed and
street crime became a problem. Swiss authorities tried a new strategy:
harm reduction. They opened free
heroin maintenance centers, where addicts would
be treated and stabilized. Here, people would be given
free heroin of high quality, they would get clean needles
and have access to safe injection rooms, showers, beds, and medical supervision. Social workers help them find housing and
deal with other problems in their lives. The results were a sharp drop in
drug-related crime and two thirds of the people in the
centers got regular jobs, because now they could
focus on getting better insetad of financing their addiction. Today, over 70% of all heroin addicts
in Switzerland receive treatment. HIV infections have dropped drastically. Deaths from heroin overdoses
have dropped by 50%. And drug-related street sex work and crime
has been reduced enormously. So there are methods that are
not only way cheaper, but also actually work, instead of
creating more problems. Drug prohibition led to a system
that bulldozes human rights, costs vasts sums of money, and
creates a lot of human misery, all in pursuit of an unobtainable goal. After 40 years of fighting, it’s time
to finally end the War on Drugs and move on to something better. This video was supported by
the Open Society Foundations and by viewer donations on Patreon. If you want to learn more about
how you can influence drug policy, check out the Stop the Harm campaign. We finally have some merchandise! If you want your own
Kurzgesagt poster, T-shirt, mug, or stickers of little monsters, you can get them now at the DFTBA store! Subtitles by the Amara.org community

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Politicians around the world dont want resaults they just want their war on drugs … i bet 99% of the piliticians who promote the war on drugs get BIG payments from the cartells and the 1% are just too stupid to realize this.

  2. Why not just poison all drugs… Lead everyone to really bad desease offer no treatment. Ppl who want to be alive won't consume drugs

  3. Funniest part of these comments is everyone just uses it as an excuse to pin things on america. Yet over 90% of the worlds drugs are from forign sources such as Mexico. The biggest problem with drugs not being wiped out is due to human filth and greed. Humans are moronic animals with little to no intelligence to their life. Beer, TV and stuffing your belly. Thats what all humans waste their entire lives to achieve. And all of it is for more money. Not the betterment of life or humanity. The human race is ignorant to their own lives and shortcomings.

  4. how about a full pardon for any previous substance abuse for anyone who turns in all of their narcotics and in return they receive 70% off any and all cannabis purchases for the next 2 years? That would – i believe – encourage drug users to drop super harmful and super illegal substances such as meth for a less damaging and less frowned upon alternative that has been known to actually have a ton of medical benefits in return.

  5. You can't take something that worked in Switzerland and apply it to USA. People here don't have free healthcare so your model wouldn't work because if you offered free healthcare only to addicts, everyone who's poor would start using heroin in order to get the free healthcare. Start using your brains Kurzgesagt instead of mindlessly copy-pasting articles from Wikipedia.

  6. 4:30–4:33, I cannot even comment this, for the rest of the video I don't understand why sometimes peaple for reaching a goal tooks what seem to be the easiest way, and whatever it doesn't work nobody cares and everyone continue to travel to that way to reach the goal they want to reach, without pay attention to anyone

  7. Just imagine how drastic the war on drugs the Philippines has right now and how devastating the impacts it causes.

  8. What do you mean it failed? It is a huge success!

    Right now privately run prisons are filled to the brim with easily dealt with, nonviolent offenders.

    Profits after soaring for the industry!

    Wait, did you think it was to stop drug abuse?

  9. Not a failure with the us government.They made billions on selling drugs to their own citizens.Then they made money from justice system and housing the convicted.They convicted a majority of minorities even though whites commit majority of crime and mass murder for centuries.

  10. How could a man using more purified heroin stop taking durg himself and return to the society successfully?that's pretty confusing!

  11. The US has failed their war to drugs, they know it very well and they don't care, they only care as an excuse to put military bases in other countries and threaten the world

  12. the same supply/demand metaphor could be used for the gas prices recently. what we gotta do is make cheap clean cars.

  13. Switzerland and Portugal should be leading the way for a new approach of dealing with drug abuse worldwide !!! (Harmreduction) The whole society would benefit. The problem is that as a politician saying legalize Heroin would be not very popular with many voters, because they only hear Heroin and thats it…… This is why we still dont have sensible drug laws because it just isn't a very popular issue!!!

  14. – comming now since the people, who get addicted and caught in drug crimes are white. When the community suffering the most from it was African American nobody cared.

  15. fortunately the individual states in the US have breached the dam on THC, and just like commercial drones and self driving cars, it's overwhelming and inevitable. soon it will be like buying beer at a gas station, as it should be – reliable and cheap and inconsequential.

  16. Eat enough burgers and fries to clog up your arteries and veins with fat in an entirely avoidable disease. Smoke enough cigarettes to drown your lungs with tar. Drink enough alcohol to corrode your liver, in fact do all 3 at the same time if you have the money, it's perfectly legal. But do a single bit of weed and your life gets ruined. Personally i think weed should be legal, but treated in a similar way to tobacco/alcohol. I mean, the fact that it's illegal makes people want to try it out even more, the allure of the "forbidden fruit".

  17. Joke war…Counter effective…Business has boomed for all involved on either side of the law…'cartels,dealers getting rich…crime & violence rates soaring…Tax payers money squandered…Call it a day…Legalize..Result:A better society,but a hypocrite society that condones tobacco & alcohol…

  18. If you think drugs should be illegal you are a piece of shit. People need to learn how to mind their own business. No one can tell me what I can and can't put in my own body period.

  19. Switzerland is so smart for realizing the answer. If you can't win by fighting, you have to make people stop wanting drugs. Drugs will still exist, but if a very small minority wants them, the cartels can't win and will go bankrupt.

  20. I’m underage in a illegal state smoking on my back porch. Yeaaaa, I agree the drug war isn’t really stopping it lol

  21. So im 18 and grew up in suburban michigan and i can tell you its actually far easier for minors to get illegal drugs than it is to get alcohol

  22. American bureaucracy profits way to much for harm reduction. C'mon without drugs to fight what would the poor ole wealthy ATFs DEAs FBI, corrupt police precincts, judges, DAs, politicians, border patrols do without jobs. They gotta feed thier dat families and stand in the lime light as the "Good Guys."

  23. I have an idea. Except, it's the polar opposite of Harm Reduction. Step One: Legalize all the drugs. Step Two: Deny any government funded healthcare/welfare services to people using drugs (With the exception of Marijuana, Tobacco Products, Alcohol, or Caffeine). Step Three: Let natural selection run its course.

  24. The main thing that boils my blood is that people are being hurt, killed and severely punished due to a legal technicality. Imagine if legal/illegal drugs were reversed and that smokers and drinkers and it's sellers were being brutally dismembered or put away for 20 years. People would also be justifying that those who smoke/drink alcohol are scum and should be eradicated.

  25. I'm torn between the method Switzerland used because of the financial cost of providing all of the free services to help. Where would all this money come from?

  26. Setting an example based on experiences in Switzerland does not count. Everything is different there. An 8.5 million nation is not comparable to a 330 million one.

  27. America:The war to drugs is a failure.
    China:Well…I don't think so.
    (Chinene goverment has put great efforts to make sure every single one in the country konws the concequences of using drugs, which cut down the need of drugs.

  28. America:The war to drugs is a failure.
    China:Well…I don't think so.
    (Chinene goverment has put great efforts to make sure every single one in the country konws the concequences of using drugs, which cut down the need of drugs.

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