Drug Control

Martin Bouchard and Morena Anamali

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Drug Control

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A number of psychoactive substances such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines have been defined as illegal by the vast majority of countries around the world. As such, they are subject to a varying degree of legal control. Yet, defining drug control solely in legal terms would miss the vast amount of programs and individuals outside of law enforcement working to reduce drug use and drug harms, such as clinicians, street outreach workers, and schoolteachers. The actual programs to consider may thus take many forms, just as many forms as the diversity of markets and participants subject to these controls. Pure strategies of drug law enforcement that focus on drug suppliers need to be considered alongside harm reduction, drug use treatment, or school-based prevention programs. Drug control refers to the full array of interventions aimed at reducing the size of illegal drug markets, and the harms caused by illegal drugs. Whether any of the actual interventions falling under the umbrella of drug control succeed in doing so is another question entirely, one that should be subject to empirical research and evaluation. Illegal drugs, like any (legal) consumption products, are sold in “markets.” The illegal context, however, has unique consequences on market structure and behavior that need to be taken into account both by researchers and drug control agents. An important aspect of drugs being sold in markets is the presence of demand for drugs that may not be affected by interventions aimed strictly at suppliers. This situation may indirectly stimulate a replacement process for drugs and suppliers that are removed from a given market. The lack of an immediate victim (i.e., a victim in the sense understood for predatory crimes) creates a situation in which law enforcement agencies have considerable discretion in enforcing drug laws, making drug control an especially important area for research in criminology. Drug enforcement should not be viewed and researched separately from drug markets and their participants. Both the police and drug market participants adapt their strategies to the other—the police in designing interventions that are effectively modeled on actual drug market patterns and behaviors, and drug market participants in anticipating and avoiding those interventions through counterdeterrence measures. In the face of the relative failure of pure law enforcement strategies to reduce the harms associated with (certain) illegal drugs, harm reduction programs and alternatives to prohibition need to be considered seriously.

Article.  10876 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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