The dark secrets of drug menace
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know, Mark AR Kleiman, Jonathan P Caulkins and Angela Hawken, Oxford University Press, Pp 234 (PB), $16.95
Drug trafficking in the world today has come to be inextricably linked to terrorism, slush money and violent crimes in the world. The British and much of the West fought wars with China in 19th century in the cause of opium. It is the British who forced Indian farmers to grow opium and transported it to China to equalise the balance of trade that was weighing heavily in favour of China.
Today, India is the second or third largest supplier of global illegal opium. Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know by Mark AR Kleiman, Jonathan P Caulkins and Angela Hawken tells the story of the drug trade. All aspects of this menace stating from dealing to consuming to profiteering and how the drug trade has re-written the balance of geo-political power are discussed by these authors. The biggest weapon in the hands of the Afghan terrorists is the opium cultivation. In a sense, the chain’s first link is there. From there, the multi-billion transaction branches out, right down to the retailers who sell a few grams. As risk increases cost increases.
The book includes “facts about drugs and drug-related behaviour, pharmacology, prohibitions, regulations, and taxes, and how drug enforcement, drug prevention, and drug treatment work, along with their characteristic problems and limitations.” The authors say that the whole system of crime and punishment has complicated with internet. Today, drugs can be delivered at doorstep of users, without the seller and buyer coming into direct contact. And since most drugs consumed are imported from another country, trans-border control is near impossible. “If we built a fifty-foot wall around the country, the traffickers would build fifty-one-foot ladders” a former drug enforcement official said.
The facts presented in the book burst the myth that drug dealers lure ‘unsuspecting’ children into the habit. On the other hand, the authors say, “Almost everyone who starts using illicit drugs is introduced to them by a friend, sibling, or acquaintance.” They also deny any direct relations between drugs causing crimes. Though the percentage of arrestees who test positive for drugs at the time of arrest is high, on their own, “they do not show that drugs cause crime.”
The financial implication in the drug business is humongous. “The most serious estimate of the total retail illicit drug market in the United States — by all accounts the country whose residents spend the most on illicit drugs — put the figure at about $65 billion… The worldwide total — again, at retail — might be four times that amount.”
The authors give three ‘what to do’ lists. The first list is ‘consensus‘ list, the second list is ‘pragmatist‘ list and the third is the ‘political-bridge-too-far‘ list. Of course, all suggestions are made with America in mind. The authors are categorical that as long as there is demand for drugs, there would be suppliers, whatever the cost and risk. Hence, that’s where the efforts have to begin. The book, though America-centric is a practical guide on the issue of drugs and should be read by all those involved in dealing with the menace: the law enforcers, social workers and policy makers, for it needs a concerted and focussed plan to fight drug abuse. The authors are all professors in various universities.
(Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon street, Oxford ox2 6DP, United Kingdom)