History offers us a myriad of lessons on drugs and addiction, yet most countries’ drug policies have nothing to do with these precedents. Most people today believe drug abuse, addiction, and related crimes to be purely modern issues. The fact of the matter is that societies and governments have been dealing with drug-related issues for thousands of years – and failing miserably. Using and abusing various substances is simply part of the human condition.

Roughly two hundred years ago, China and Great Britain fought entire wars over drugs. Today, conflicts over the mix of narcotics, addiction, and money plague nearly every country in the world. An unbelievable number of the world’s people die each year from addiction, overdose, and violent drug-related crimes. A thorough understanding of worldwide drug laws and their effects on different societies is crucial in developing better policies for education, prevention, and treatment.

The United States is the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, but it also has some of the toughest enforcement policies. In fact, this heavy enforcement often spills over into countries in which the US has no legal jurisdiction. The government’s War on Drugs pits prosperous first-world nations in America and Europe against underdeveloped third-world countries. United States military and law enforcement agencies even stage drug raids in countries in the Middle East, South America, Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Though the proponents of these raids say they are supposed to eradicate drugs and drug-related violent crime, they typically result in more fighting in these countries.

Some nations have even harsher drug policies than the United States. Malaysia and Thailand use fifteen to twenty-year prison sentences just for possession of certain substances. They also use the death penalty for the production, trafficking, and distribution of narcotics. In fact, these penalties apply to foreigners and native-born citizens alike. Ten Australians have been put to death in the last seven years for selling drugs in Indonesia.

Other countries seem to use double standards in their drug policies. For instance, certain Middle Eastern nations allow the consumption of hashish, though Sharia law forbids alcohol.

Some nations practice a great deal of tolerance towards certain “soft” drugs. In the Netherlands, marijuana, hashish, and psychedelic mushrooms are technically illegal. However, law enforcement agencies usually tolerate their sale and use, as long as the people involved are not being violent or causing trouble. Cocaine, meth, heroin, and other “hard” drugs are still illegal, though.

In England and Switzerland, addicts can actually get prescriptions for heroin. The substance is still illegal, but these nations’ governments have decided to deal with certain addictions with a kind of appeasement – rather than create more crime by punishing substance abusers.

International cooperation in controlling and stopping the sale of drugs has been ineffective. Authorities can temporarily disrupt lines of supply, but the worldwide demand for marijuana, heroin, and other drugs is incredibly high. There is an incredible amount of money to be made in illegal drug trafficking, and cartel leaders always find ways around law enforcements’ obstacles.

Thankfully, several nations are considering legislation which would fundamentally change their drug policies. The United States, Mexico, Australia, Canada, and other countries are realizing that focusing on treatment and prevention may be far more effective than incarceration at reducing addiction and violent drug crime.

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Author's Bio: 

A writer for the internet marketing world, Shinzat is a crafter of persuasive copy and web content for electronic media and print. Born in a remote part of Japan, Shinzat speaks a variety of languages and writes will in them all. He commands a linguisitcs degree from a Russian university and sits on the board of several consortiums for various arts.