Op/Ed Fridays: Drugs have won the drug war. New and different education can stop us losing.
Yesterday I saw yet another of countless articles showing how the U.S. government’s strategy on drugs promotes drug use, crime, government spending that decreases quality of life, etc. You’ve read the article in many formats before. This one’s headline was “Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost, Low Return: Penalty increases enacted in 1980s and 1990s have not reduced drug use or recidivism.” Sound familiar?
You probably responded, “Yeah, in other news water is wet,” or something similar. “But what can we do about it?”
Why does anyone think the government’s drug strategy is about lowering drug use? It’s about giving the executive branch votes, money, and power. It’s extremely successful! People get confused thinking politicians mean what they say. Look at their behavior.
Education can help, but not the education we see.
Educating people on how drugs work and their risks and consequences helps, but that information is already out there. I don’t suggest decreasing it, but it’s more “water is wet” information. Everyone knows the risks. The problem isn’t lack of facts.
The problem isn’t that the government’s strategy is failing. It’s that it’s working—at the goal of the people doing it, which is to get them votes, money, and power.
The education that can work is to educate people that voting for politicians promoting prohibition causes the results of this article—crime, death, government waste, etc. If you voted in a politician that promoted prohibition, you promoted crime, waste, and all those results.
If you want to stop the devastation, stop causing it by voting for or supporting politicians creating the devastation. Voters who support these politicians are the places where education can work. We’re focusing on kids in school. That’s not an effective lever.
The mental model of a war, with drugs on the other side, blinds them from seeing the motivations of their representatives promoting that mental model and the results of their actions. Drugs aren’t a human enemy, so weapons and war-like techniques won’t decrease their use. Calling them an enemy will get people elected who compound the problem. That’s the problem. Address that problem and you have a chance at resolving it.
It’s nice to educate about the risks of using drugs, but it’s more important to educate away from a mental model contributing to results they don’t want.
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