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Special Communication
June 16, 1978

The Drug Laws: Are They Effective and Safe?

Author Affiliations

From the Student Health Service and the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

JAMA. 1978;239(24):2578-2583. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280510062021

The laws controlling narcotic and other psychoactive drugs are viewed as one of three major forms of treatment designed to deal with the drug problem: laws, prevention, and rehabilitation. All three modalities should be evaluated for effectiveness and safety in the same way we would evaluate surgical or pharmacologic treatment. As a treatment, the drug laws appear to be only marginally effective. Their side effects are so dangerous that the treatment is often more devastating than the disease. A judgment based strictly on the effectiveness and safety of the drug laws would require their immediate repeal or overhaul. The government should be pressed to undertake further evaluation and action. If society decides on retention of these laws, it should do so only if it believes other benefits override the laws' failure as treatment.

(JAMA 239:2578-2583, 1978)