The occurrence of mind-altering drug use is not new. It has existed in
almost every society in history. People have always wanted to change their
perspective, ease physical and emotional pain, and increase pleasure.
For most of human history, even under conditions of ready access to the
most potent of drugs, people and societies have regulated their drug use
without requiring massive education or facts about drug abuse problems, legal, and interdiction campaigns.
(David Musto, The History of Legislative Control over Opium, Cocaine, and
Prior to 1900, opium and alcohol were both used rather widely, sometimes
abused, in Europe and America. It was recognized that alcohol caused far
more social and health problems than opium, but it was never considered
viable to prohibit the use of either substance.
Native Americans used tobacco, marijuana, and hallucinogenic mushrooms
in spiritual rituals. There is no history of them abusing these substances.
This is because the drugs were accepted and neither prohibited nor glorified.
Drug use has never been as damaging to individuals as the drug civil
war has been to individuals, our urban areas, and the people of the world.
It has only become a serious social problem in the later part of this
century. The truth is that drugs never posed a significant problem to any
society until they were made illegal. The stronger laws and enforcement
tactics have become, the worse drug related problems have become.
Our drug control paradigm has been based on scare tactics, exaggeration,
moral judgment, hypocrisy, and force. Any strategy built on such a foundation
We do not say that a different approach would rid society of drug abuse
and addiction. What we do say is that drugs are here to stay and we have
to learn to deal with them more effectively. Human beings are compulsive
and we have to learn to help them. Trying to stop the use of drugs through
force is wrong-minded and creates an atmosphere of violence and intolerance.
When we look at drugs through the murky smoke-screen of crime, we cannot
see the phenomenon clearly.