Currently creation, possession and selling of drugs is illegal and punishable in most countries. Participating in either one can result in a large fine or jail time, this differs depending on the offence committed. Many argue that these stern rules stop people with drug problems from getting help when they need it, some also state that drugs should be legalised for medical reasons such as medicine development. This is because throughout history there are references to using certain drugs for medicinal purposes and recent studies into currently illegal drugs such as marijuana and LSD have turned up results that may one day lead to them being incorporated into mainstream medicine.
However many argue that legalisation of drugs will lead to higher use statistics, claiming that the extra availability of drugs will only make it easier for people to get hold of and take the drug. Also that their technically legal status may mislead some of the public into believing these drugs are completely safe, particularly young people. Another argument is that the higher use levels they are expecting will lead to more addictions and dependencies. Which will leave more people using drugs long term and demand extra, unexpected cost in treatment. These claims appear to be the main rival for any argument to legalise drugs, but are they entirely accurate?
Overall through recent years drug use in the UK appears to be declining according to gov records, but the decline is not always sizeable nor consistent. Use of drugs in the country varies, for example records show a decline in use of powder cocaine between 2009 and 2013, but after use began to rise again through to 2015 to fall again afterwards. Even though the rise and fall of drug use is constant a figure from public health England show a significant rise in overall drug deaths between 2012 and 2014, there appears to be no correlation between use levels and overdose related deaths. Does this then show that the current war on drugs is succeeding or failing? The public are still heavily involved with drugs despite harsh penalty laws and deaths appear to be rising.
Lessons may be taken from countries such as Portugal, which has relaxed laws and decriminalised regulated levels of drug possession and as a result has seen a decrease in recreational use. Some findings claim that it has reduced its drug abuse by half within a ten year period, a huge drop compared to the results of prohibition efforts of other countries. Rather than punish drug misuse Portugal tried an approach of treatment, putting their funding into helping addicts become clean and finding new, better ways to treat them than before. There have been claims that this approach has not only improved Portugal's drug abuse problem, but also saved them money in comparison to punishing use with laws and prison time.
Another example, although more specialised is a study that looked into whether cannabis legalisation lead to higher usage in adolescents. Actions of a group of teenagers in america were analysed to show any possible difference in use before or after marijuana legalisation. Results showed that there was no found rise in usage after medical legislation was passed. However there was in fact a noticed decrease in use among the younger of the teenagers studied, there was no clear recorded reason why this occurred. Results of the study showed that legislation did not increase use, however use rates of the adolescents studied among many others were already noticeably high.
Results from other studies and law changes alongside use statistics from the UK seem to suggest that regulated legalisation or even decriminalisation paired with treatment programmes could be the most effective solution. This is due to research showing that legalisation will not definitely promote use, and that treatment programmes being available without the worry of prosecution lead to more people getting help and a drop in addiction. Neither solution either legislation or prohibition are likely to be perfect, however the benefits of each must be weighed up to find the best solution for the public. Tackling health damaging addiction to many should come well before tackling drugs themselves.