This paper examines the social consequences of illicit drug production,
trafficking and consumption, as well as the factors contributing to the global
drug problem. In the light of this analysis, it considers the potential and
limitations of the various possible policy responses - both those strategies
already attempted and those that have as yet only been proposed.
People engage in drug production largely in response to economic
incentives, which legal sanctions have been unable to counteract
effectively. Peasant growers of drug crops can make from 10 to 50 times
more in supplying the illegal drug market than they can in any other
agricultural pursuit. Even where intense eradication efforts have managed
to suppress drug production regionally, the shortfall in the drug market is
quickly made up by increased production elsewhere.
Drug traffickers have used the opportunities presented by the changing
global economic environment to enlarge their acitivities and expand their
markets. They are highly mobile, employ the latest communications
technology and move their money around the world electronically. The
consequences of this type of increasingly organized trafficking are severe:
systemic crime and violence are becoming endemic in the countries worst
affected, while traffickers. efforts to corrupt public officials and attract new
generations to the drug trade help to protect them from attack.
Drug users not only suffer physical, social and economic problems
themselves, but they also impose many direct and indirect costs on society.
Of particular concern is the relationship between drug use and crime,
especially the violent crime associated with crack cocaine.
In addressing the question of what is to be done about the illicit drug
problem, this paper argues that the strategies favoured by the present
approach are not working. Efforts to reduce the supply of drugs through
crop eradication or attacks on drug syndicates have failed because the