How the War on Drugs Fuels Gun Violence

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How the War on Drugs Fuels Gun Violence

Author’s Note: Just Believe Recovery in no way condones the use of illicit substances. This article is for information purposes only.

Alcohol prohibition ended more than 80 years ago, and yet, drug prohibition is alive and well. And unfortunately, it is a huge contributor to the gun violence we see on the streets every day.

Additionally, current policies used to decrease drug-related violence aren’t working – i.e. bans on certain weapons and confiscation. But ironically, the war on drugs is as militarized as ever.

And much of this gun violence is a hidden from the average middle-class WASP. Instead, the media shows us mass shootings and police violence – not the day-to-day activities of drug gangs. It’s a major aspect of gun violence to which we simply aren’t paying much attention.

But despite the hype about mass shootings, they typically don’t contribute much to our county’s overall murder rate.

In 2014, mass shootings caused the death of 383 people – but that was only about 3% of the total gun homicides for the entire year. Conversely, experts believe that murders related to gun violence may contribute to 50% of U.S. homicides.

Moreover, mass shootings represent extreme examples of gun violence, and receive much attention. On the other hand, the war on drugs is slower, but has contributed to far more violence than spree killings.

Also, the American war on drugs isn’t inclusive to this country. International gun and drug violence (such as Mexico) is largely a product of our policies. By some estimates, more than 160,000 persons were victims of drug cartel violence in 2014.

What Can We Do?

When a black market exists, there will always be violence associated with it. Because it’s not regulated by the government, the only means of mediation is to take the law into your own hands, so to speak. That is, street laws.

Drug violence manifests itself in a number of ways. Turf wars, police raids, and assaults from addicts on others. Due to the many deaths that are in some manner linked to drugs, it’s almost impossible to fully grasp the scope of the problem.

Well, we can start by emphasizing drug treatment over incarceration. Also, we can decrease police militarization against drugs, and consider options for legalization of some substances. I know it sounds crazy, but it worked for Portugal. Fifteen years after they legalized drugs, drug use and drug-related deaths have continued to decline across the board.

Indeed, there is an association between increased drug policing and black market drug violence. According to the The Independence Institute, the greatest contributor to violence is “a violent black market caused by the War on Drugs today, and Prohibition in the 1920s.”

A Waste of Resources

Even if we set aside the byproduct of gun violence, the war on drugs has been a dismal failure. We’ve spend nearly one trillion dollars, and have little to show for it other than dead drug dealers and massively packed prisons.. Oh yes – and don’t forget a thriving 100 billion black market, with no sign of drug use on the decline.

And we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It’s a never-ending battle, with no clear winners. Did we learn nothing from alcohol prohibition and the crime and violence it wrought?


I don’t want to come across as an advocate for drug use or willy-nilly legalization. I do, however, believe in harm reduction. Laws rarely stop people from doing what they want to do. What we must do as a society is to compassionately treat those with problems, lifting them up instead of breaking them down.

Perhaps drug dealers could be rehabilitated, if only we invested in recidivism prevention. After all, drug dealers exist because the market exists. That is, if we could reduce the demand, ultimately the supply would decrease as well. Put some dealers out of business, and perhaps they may actually seek out legitimate careers – or at least less risky ones.

So, assume that we use some of these tactics to curb drug demand. The reduction in supply will result in fewer drug traffickers and dealers. Drug-related violence will then likely reflect the shrinking drug market.

These are just some of my thoughts. There’s no doubt, however, that the legalization of alcohol is a hypocritical slap in the face. By far, alcohol does more physical, mental, and emotional damage to persons, families and communities worldwide than any other substance.

Simply put, more laws = more crime. It’s hard to beat that logic. Additionally, more crime = more monetary investment in law enforcement and incarceration. Moreover, this is money which could be better allocated educate potential users, prevent use. and provide treatment for those to curb their habit and fully recover.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A. Psychology

Related: Drinking Alcohol and Hypertension: Think you are not at risk?

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