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I have often wondered at the continued witch hunt that is our drug war.

People who produce drugs are typically no different than farmers or chemists.  People who sell drugs are typically no different (and a lot less pushy) than other merchants.  People who consume drugs typically can’t be distinguished from the general population except by testing their blood – or some other physical test for the detection of the chemical in the person’s body.  Yes, there are some spectacular drug-using losers – I’m sure you know of some – but every random group of people will have its share of losers.  Pinning losing on drug use is about as persuasive from the evidence as pinning losing on hair color or the wrinkles in the palm.

That said, I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult to communicate this simple fact.

One big reason is confirmation bias: even when beliefs have lots of evidence to the contrary, the belief hangs around.  See confirmation bias in the Wikipedia for a good discussion, paying particular attention to the persistence of discredited beliefs.

This also points out why it is important to look at the news about science sceptically.  Once an idea gains hold, even if that idea is worse than useless and outright wrong, ridding ourselves of the idea takes a good deal of effort.  Once an idea is embodied in legislation, you must move mountains to change it.

Heaven help us!  May we have the faith necessary.


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