Cost of War on Drugs in Lives and in Health Care

Posted on March 15, 2010

These appalling figures were buried at the end of an article on the recent killings of Americans in Mexico:

The government has not released official figures, but national media say 7,600 Mexicans lost their lives in the war on drugs in 2009. Calderon said last year that 6,500 Mexicans died in drug violence in 2008. [CNN]

The number of Americans killed since 2004 is 200. [wikipedia]

While Mexico primarily produces marijuana and amphetamines, they also import 70% of illicit drugs into the US from other countries.  With the collapse of the major Colombian cartels, the Mexican cartels are the most powerful traffickers in the US.

Latin America has decried the US war on Drugs. In an important report from the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, is summarized in

In order to drastically reduce the harm caused by narcotics, the long-term solution is to reduce demand for drugs in the main consumer countries. To move in this direction, it is essential to differentiate among illicit substances according to the harm they inflict on people’s health, and the harm drugs cause to the social fabric.

In this spirit, we propose a paradigm shift in drug policies based on three guiding principles: Reduce the harm caused by drugs, decrease drug consumption through education, and aggressively combat organized crime. To translate this new paradigm into action we must start by changing the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market to patients cared for by the public-health system. [NY Times]

Now here is a plan that would reduce health care costs and possibly the prison population if adapted here.


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