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SINCE PRESIDENT Nixon declared war on drugs in 1972, the nation's primary remedy for illicit drug use has been an escalation of federal, state, and local law enforcement activities aimed at discouraging use by punishing both dealers and users.
However, an increasing number of health, law, and other experts say the current policy is clearly failing and shows no sign of ever doing more good than harm.
Advocates for reform are calling for an objective cost-benefit analysis of current prohibition laws and of alternative approaches that place more emphasis on harm reduction than on the complete elimination of "recreational" illicit drug use.
Yet despite the nation's long, bitter, and expensive war on drugs, much vital data remain uncollected—such as the total number of illegal-drug addicts killed by overdoses.
"There appears to be an unwillingness among many national leaders to collect all the data needed for an objective analysis of the
Skolnick AA. 'Collateral Casualties' Climb in Drug War. JAMA. 1994;271(21):1636-1639. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510450008004