The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
the sources, once these factors are present, an individual’s ability to act independently is undermined. Given this fact, it seemed both unjust and ineffective to respond to drug use among individuals as a crime. It seemed unjust because addicts were unable to decide to stop using drugs; ineffective because deterrence would fail, and incapacitation would work only as long as the restraint continued.
What they proposed as an alternative was the medical treatment of drug users. The most radical version of the approach called for drugs now banned to be legally available to addicts, their use to be regulated by physicians who could prescribe the drugs to patients under their care. For much of the 1960s, drug policy was locked in a debate between “cops and docs.” Should society continue its commitment to law enforcement, or should it shift to the medical approach?
Steps were taken in the 1970s to combine the law enforcement and medical approaches into a single framework. In 1972, Congress enacted legislation embracing one of the core positions of the proponents of the medical approach—that people with drug problems should be given incentives and assurances of confidentiality to encourage them to enter treatment. In addition, the federal government supported programs to use criminal prosecution as a lever for treatment participation. Congress also appropriated funds to support drug treatment programs. The debate between cops and docs receded in a policy environment in which both approaches were used simultaneously.
Supply-Reduction and Demand-Reduction Policies
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, drug policy analysts began talking in somewhat different terms. Influenced by economic theory, they now referred to supply-reduction and demand-reduction policies. These terms became particularly prominent in the 1980s when the ONDCP was created, with its deputy directors for demand and supply reduction.
Supply-reduction strategies focused on limiting the supply of drugs that might flow to illegal markets, while demand-reduction strategies focused on reducing the demand for drugs. To some, the new idea of supply and demand policies was almost indistinguishable from the old idea of cops and docs. Supply-reduction strategies looked like law enforcement, and demand-reduction strategies looked like drug treatment. However, there were important differences in thinking about drug policy in terms of supply and demand rather than in terms of enforcement and treatment.
First, in the new conception that distinguished supply and demand approaches, law enforcement was divided into two parts. Enforcement efforts directed at drug producers and distributors were considered sup-