After decades of fighting to keep drugs illegal, many countries around the world are starting to realize that outright bans on narcotics and psychotropics are simply exercises in futility. Prohibition has led to mass incarcerations, the spread of crime, and thousands upon thousands of deaths, as well as untold economic losses– yet the drug trade is still as strong as ever. However, the great experiment, as The Economist put it in a recent article, is finally being challenged by sensible approaches to decriminalization and consumption.
Also lost in the drug war are scientific approaches to addiction and treatment. Drug policy in the United States has long consisted of banishing drug users to prison, which typically leads a dangerous cycle of recidivism. In the following clip from the Commonwealth Club, Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains the pharmacological properties of addiction and how drug abuse takes over the reward systems in the brain.