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The War on Drugs

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Beginning in 2016, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte initiated a war on drugs that has since been reported as one of the most harsh and debilitating drug vetting procedures to date. The Philippines have been criticized on a number of aspects of this war on drugs, and perhaps the most shocking aspect is the allowance of summary executions. A summary execution can be identified as an execution in which the accused can be killed immediately without benefiting from a trial. This means of execution has resulted in an appalling estimated 12,000 deaths to date, in which approximately 2,500 have been carried out by the Philippine National Police. To make matters worse, allegations that the Philippines government is falsifying information to justify these killings are spreading like wildfire. Given the extreme nature of this extrajudicial execution system, one question comes to mind; how effective has this campaign been?

On the first year anniversary of the beginning of this drug war, it was noted that the street price of methamphetamine had dropped in comparison to the year prior. Shabu, a popular drug in the region, cost between $25 and $200, whereas now it costs between $20 and $300; a fluctuation that is not exactly a positive result given the amount of lives lost in regards to this issue. It has become increasingly apparent that the results of this war on drugs have been not only crippling to the lives of those affected, but unsuccessful as well.

Although the criminality being ignored in this war on drugs is heinous, it is important to put into perspective what other country’s attempts at a war on drugs have looked like. The American war on drugs is an extremely popular example. Initiated during the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, increased government and military action was taken and has been maintained since, costing the U.S. economy an approximate $1 trillion dollars overall. Yet, even after 40 years of incessant attempts at crippling the drug economy, there is evidence to suggest that this behavior only resulted in mass incarceration rates and increased drug related violent crimes in Latin American countries. However, the Obama administration was the first administration to redirect some of the funding to a different aspect of the war on drugs; prevention and rehabilitation.

The fact of the matter is, if someone has reached a point in which drug addiction controls their life, they will stop at nothing to gain access to that drug, regardless of impending repercussions. Although, it is indisputable that part of the issue lies in the supplier of that drug, the demand for that drug is the overall controlling force. Eliminating the supply for a drug without decreasing the demand will only result in higher prices of drugs, or more recruitment involved when supplying the drug.

One country that acknowledged the failures of these programs and used them to create a working method of lowering drug use is Switzerland. Switzerland had a heroin epidemic in the 1980s, during which rates of HIV cases also skyrocketed. In response, the government opened free heroin maintenance centers in which heroin was administered both safely and legally under medical supervision, in addition to access to housing and social workers. Because addicts were allowed a scenario in which they could focus on rehabilitation rather than financing their addiction. Two thirds of the people who utilized these centers ended up in work. Heroin overdoses and HIV rates have since both dropped dramatically.

Not only has Switzerland been more effective in reducing drug related street crime, but it has also been much more cost effective than any other war on drugs, especially in comparison to the hefty price tag associated with the United States’ efforts. Whether or not other countries would like to adopt the same means of drug rehabilitation is still heavily debatable. However, given the attempts the world has seen to date, one thing is for certain; harsh means of combating drug use has cost large sums of money, and worst of all, the basic human rights of those affected, and needs to be replaced with a more effective approach.

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Kayleigh Lavornia

Politics Editor 2017/18

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