Should all drugs be legal? Hell yea.

Lucas Koprowski, News Editor

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In 1970, Richard Nixon passed the Controlled Substance Act and began the now 45-year infamous War on Drugs. Although this was supposed to help get drugs off of the streets and prevent people from using them, the war has instead led to mass incarceration, government corruption and massive droves of people dying in the drug trade in Africa, Asia and Africa, as well as human rights abuses across the world.

While all of this is happening, we funnel billions of dollars into trying to enforce a set of laws that has brought about drug cartels and kept them outrageously successful with addicts in need of a fix. We decided to ignore the most basic of economic principles, supply and demand, to enforce a set of laws that cripple addict’s’ chances of ever becoming free of their crutch.

With that sort of blood on our hands, it’s time for us to try something other than keeping all drugs illegal. Rather than keep these drugs stigmatized and give addicts a bad reputation, let’s take the money we currently spend on drug enforcement and put it towards rehab centers instead of jail cells to help people become independent.

The major problem with the current War on Drugs ideology is that we take addicts on a single case basis. Throughout the 20th century, scientists and psychologists alike have conducted the same experiment over and over again. They place a single rat in a cage with two bottles, one with either cocaine or heroin water and one with plain water. Every single time it is conducted, the rat takes the drug water and dies later from overdose.

That is what has created our current viewpoint of addiction that was taught to all of us by D.A.R.E. programs and laid the foundation for the Controlled Substance Act. What that experiment doesn’t take into account is human nature, and how addiction works in social animals. Psychologist and former professor Bruce Alexander conducted this experiment in the 1970’s and wondered what would happen if the rat wasn’t put in a cage all alone with nothing else to do but drugs.

He and his fellow colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada created what was notoriously tagged as Rat Park, a comfortable cage with toys and tons of rats to play with and have sex. This group was also given the same two choices, drugged water and plain water, and Alexander found that the rats hardly ever used the drugged water. In fact, no rats used the drugged water compulsively, and none of them overdosed.

You can also see this correlation with Vietnam veterans who returned home from combat. A report released by two members of Congress in the 1971 stated that about 15 percent of people in combat were addicted to heroin. U.S. citizens were uneasy at the idea that soldiers would come home and bring their addiction with them.

 

What was really astonishing was that in a study published in the “American Journal on Addictions” of people returning home, about 95 percent of the addicts stopped as soon as they came home. If you believe the earlier study of the lonely rat, then this wouldn’t make any sense. If you follow Rat Park’s ideology of addiction, then it makes perfect sense that once the veterans returned home to their families they would stop.

Legalizing all drugs isn’t about letting people use drugs. It is about taking the stigma away from addiction. It’s about not placing them in a cage with their mental illness. We need to look forward and remember humans are social beings who need to connect to heal. Rat Park is obtainable for everyone, and it has to start with changing our ideology of how addiction works.

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