Drugs and society

We have seen throughout this course that drug use is often associated with some type of social, political and/or public health-related problem.  Yet the nature of the problem is hotly debated. On the one hand, some argue that some aspect of drug consumption is the primary problem. Within this group, some take a broadly defined conception of drug consumption, arguing that illegal as well as legal drug consumption is problematic, and indicative of problems related to our social-psychological environment (ex. economic marginalization or consumerist attitudes to dealing with stress). Others take a narrowly defined conception of drug consumption, arguing that the legal-illegal distinction is justified and that the real problem is illegal drug consumption. Here, attitudes differ over how to reduce illegal consumption (ex. debates over supply-side strategies that criminalize production, transport, sales; demand-side strategies that criminalize users; strategies that conceive of drug consumption as a mental health or social-economic rather than criminal problem).

On the other hand, some argue that the primary problems associated with the drug industry are produced by the current set of U.S. drug policies and that they are especially problematic for specific social groups, class and communities. Here, some argue that U.S. drug war policies are well-intentioned but simply misguided, emphasizing the need to demonstrate the negative impact of drug war policies so as to inform policymakers to modify (though not fundamentally alter) their drug war strategies. Others, in contrast, argue that the drug policies themselves were made with alternative aims and objectives (ex. industries attaining lucrative government contracts; politicians creating an image to appeal to their electorate).

In your own words, identify what you see as the greatest set of problems associated with drugs and/or the drug war.  Using at least 2 sources used during this semester (articles, books, films), formulate an argument as to why you think this set of problems is particularly troublesome and how we as a society should best respond to this set of problems.  Make sure that you clearly articulate what the specific problem, which social group or groups are most affected, why that is, and what you believe the source or cause of the problem is