Rethinking Our War on Drugs
Candid Talk about Controversial Issues
by Gary L. Fisher
September 2006, 228pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99026-8
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-07752-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Shows how the National Drug Control Strategy has failed its major objectives and spotlights the resistance of policy makers to consider approaches and philosophies that are innovative or controversial.

The National Drug Control Policy has failed its two major functions (supply reduction and demand reduction) due to faulty assumptions regarding nearly every aspect of the alcohol and drug fields, charges author Fisher. Yet in spite of overwhelming evidence of this failure policy makers have strongly resisted discussing major changes to the assumptions that underly current policy, because of political pressure, bias and philosophical intransigence, he adds. Fisher discusses controversial topics and defends uncommon approaches in chapters focused on subjects including legalization, harm reduction, the futility of supply reduction, the problem of underage drinking and effectiveness of treatment and prevention. He proposes a new national policy for drug control, including elimination of the war metaphor, inclusion of alcohol in the mandate, conceptualization of addiction as a public health problem, utilization of harm reduction principles to guide policy and discontinuation of approaches that isolate drug and alcohol problems from their connection to broader social issues such as poverty.

In this work, the premises of the current National Drug Control Strategy are challenged, and both Democratic and Republican administrations across the last 10 years are critically examined. Statements of the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Strategy are critiqued. Major points include that there is no evidence the NDCS has achieved any of its goals, that harm reduction should be its guiding principle, and supply reduction should not be part of the national strategy.


"Offering a comprehensive presentation of relevant data, Fisher details past and current failures of the US's National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS). His most convincing and important contention is that the emphasis on reducing marijuana use among youth is misguided. Youth alcohol consumption, argues Fisher, causes far more harm than marijuana use, and alcohol is most often the gateway drug to other drugs and hence to drug problems. In a discussion that echoes criticism of big tobacco, the author exposes the alcohol industry's efforts to attract young drinkers to replace drinkers who are aging or dead, and he points to evidence that the NDCS--and the nation's laws regarding drug use, including alcohol--is heavily influenced by lobbying from alcohol interests. As a result, objective evidence that conflicts with alcohol interests is dismissed. This is a fascinating book....Essential. All readers; all levels."—Choice, June 1, 2007

"He approaches his topic, the critical review of the National Drug Control Strategies, with an organized, well-developed case based on published data. Fisher dismantles the strategies implemented for the last decade in minute detail, and leaves the reader with a picture of a government throwing enormous amounts of money at drug control strategies that, at their best, are demonstrated to be only adequate or passable when outcome measures are applied....[a] quick and informative read for anyone interested in substance abuse and intervention strategies in the United States. The author's presentation of data points unerringly to the failure of the drug control strategies that we have invested in so heavily since 1996. A change is clearly called for, and Fisher makes a compelling case for such a change."—PsycCRITIQUES, August 15, 2007

"In this accessible text Fisher critically examines the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) of the past ten years and observes that it has failed to reduce either the supply of drugs or the demand for them in the U.S. He then considers in turn a number of controversial issues such as the legalization of marijuana and the disease concept of addiction. He concludes by proposing a new model for an NDCS that is based on harm management."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007
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