The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/22/2017 Category: Society
Updated: 10 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 636 times Debate No: 101238
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (12)
Votes (0)




In this round we will specifically be talking about the U.S. but of course evidence and citations from other countries is alright.
Must use citations and evidence!!!

R1: Acceptance
R2: Opening Statements
R3&4: Rebuttals
R5: Closing arguments


This is my first time doing this so I'm going to assume acceptance means definitions and all that.

Abuse: improper or excessive use or treatment (Merriam Webster)
Illegal drugs: A drug whose production or use is prohibited or strictly controlled via prescription (Business Dictionary)
Ought: used to express obligation (Merriam Webster)
Treated: to behave toward someone or deal with something in a particular way (Cambridge English Dictionary)
Matter: a situation or subject that is being dealt with or considered (Cambridge English Dictionary)
Public health: the general health of the people in a community or society (Macmillan Dictionary)
Criminal Justice: a generic term for the procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, evidence gathered, arrests made, charges brought, defenses raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered and punishment carried out (

I used the sources which offered the most straightforward definition I could find.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, that's a good basis for the definitions!
Just so you know, opening statements do not address anything the opponent says, that is for the rebuttals and closing arguments. Let's begin!

Thank you for accepting this debate, I will be outlining my main arguments in this round.

1. The War on Drugs

I will be using this first contention to explain why the criminalization of drugs has failed.

a. The War on Drugs has Failed

The fact remains as it did back when alcohol was under prohibition. Prohibition just simply does not work. More than $51 billion dollars is spent on the war on drugs annually. [1] We have nothing to show for it except a couple of grim statistics:
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war alone since 2006.[1]
More than 200,000 students lost federal financial aid due to drug convictions.[1]
"The drug overdose death rate increased by about 10 percent per year from 1999 to 2006, and then continued to increase but at a slower rate, rising 3 percent per year from 2006 to 2013. Then, the rate sped up again, rising by 9 percent per year from 2013 to 2015." [2]
In 2015 Alone, 52,404 people died of drug overdose.[1]
360,836 people contracted aids from syringe sharing, 30% of all diagnosed aids patients.[1]
These grim statistics are all taken from a percentage or per x amount of people basis. All of these statistic show the failure of the drug war.
"Since the global war on drugs began, drug use has expanded steadily, the exact opposite outcome the war is meant to effect." [3]
The key statistic here is the one from this article. [2] It uses per 100,000 people basis so it adjusts for population perfectly. This proves, without a doubt, the drug war has failed.

b. The War on Drugs is detrimental

This will essentially be a laundry list of the effects of the war on drugs.
"In the past 40 years, The US has spent more than $1 trillion enforcing drug laws." [3]
"Taxpayer money squandered on drug enforcement is diverted from other social spending measures that actually benefit citizens." [3]
The amount of people incarcerated for drug related offenses is 13 times the amount it was 40 years ago. Causing in a productivity loss of $40 billion a year. [3]
The war on drugs has made being a criminal INSANELY profitable, "413% mark-up from farm gate to consumer in the price of a legal drug, coffee, the percentage price mark-up for an illegal drug such as heroin can run into multiple thousands." [3]
Expensive drugs, caused by the war on drugs, causes more people to commit crimes in order to fund their habits. [3]
"The violence perpetrated by both criminals and governments to control the illegal drug trade is devastating."[3]
Makes criminals of the poor by cutting off the only way they can earn a living.[3]
"government planes are spraying Roundup ""'""""" an indiscriminate herbicide that kills every plant it touches ""'""""" from the sky in an attempt to eradicate drug crops." [3]
Etc. Etc. Etc.
These are all direct results of the war on drugs, not the drugs themselves.

2. Freedom to One's own Body is a Human Right

John Stuart Mill stated his view of freedoms based on "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."
The government has no right outside of that, you cannot enforce laws that stop people from doing what they want with their own bodies and lives as long as those things don't infringe on the freedoms of others. There is no reason for the government to stray outside these bounds.
Drugs are the prime example of modern law stopping people from doing what they want to their own bodies.
The old arguments that drugs cause the violence that surrounds them are flawed, because the only reason for that violence is that the drugs are illegal which makes the "drug game" a free for all.
Decriminalizing drugs would restore somatic rights to all people of that nation.
Most of the argumentation against the harm principle (John's view of freedoms) is that it is not clearly defined. While in general that is a valid argument, it isn't in this context. Taking drugs does not provide a clear line to the infringement of another individual's freedoms.

3. Advantage 1 - Less Drug Abuse

These arguments will be backed up by this article. [4]

a. Decriminalization reduces drug use of children
This point in the article draws on the proven notion that with decriminalization and normalization of drugs would cause more responsible decisions to be made surrounding them. This is not just because of the education that would improve with decriminalization; but with it being another substance that is just apart of life experience around it will increase as well.

b. Encourages actual treatment for addicts
"the treatment that we see today is not genuine because it is forced on people and doesent address the reasons why they are doing drugs in the first place." The vast majority of drug addicts started using for some mental health reason or another. Many times its stress, anxiety, or depression; but it is also common for abuse victims to turn towards drug to cope. Today's treatment programs try to force the idea that drugs are bad into peoples head, although they are already addicted. This obviously has little to no effect and should be a preventative measure instead of a reactive measure. To put this into a quantitative statistic:
"Since many treatment centers do not follow up with their patients, the '100 percent' success rate some cite only applies to those who complete the length of their stay. Even those who boast a more modest '30 percent success rate' only draw that figure from the immediate sobriety rates after treatment, not from six months or three years down the road."[5]
This shows that even a 30% success rate is still too high. The reason for this? The article continues to explain that the traditional form of rehabilitation, "self-help," is ineffective. It explains that the idea one must hit "rock bottom" for self help to work is one of the inherent flaws. It also elaborates that medication is extremely effective especially when used in tandem with psychological therapy.
The abolition of the drug war would also result in less drug overdoses. Not only because there is less abuse but also for different reasons. Let's look at the typical PREVENTABLE drug OD scenario. A usually small group of people are using, when someone starts to show signs of an overdose the police aren't called or notified, and the hospital isn't an option. Why? Because they are afraid of what would happen to them, selfishly so, and don't want to get caught. Only 9 states have passed good Samaritan laws that protect people that get help for an overdosing patient, but these wouldn't even be needed if the prohibition of drugs wasn't in place.
Not only does the abolition grant somatic rights but it also protects privacy rights. Just on the basis of the officer smelling a potential drug, they can enter homes, search cars, and violate the rights of nonviolent people.
By taking away the war on drugs we can finally address the addiction for what it is, a detrimental illness and not an incriminating act.

4. Advantage 2 - Massively Reduced Crime

This will not be claiming that decriminalizing something means there is less crime, you could decriminalize anything and there'd technically be less crime. What this will be addressing is the crime surrounding drugs.
Let's work off an example in Britain. The prices up until the mid 1950s were about 25 pence a "hit" for heroin. During period of time, there were only about 50 hardcore addicts in all of what is the UK. Now that it is illegal heroin is about 30 POUNDS a hit. 120 times what it was. This cannot be attributed to something like inflation, it is due to it being criminalized. More risk = higher cost. Now this is where we get the notion that decriminalization would reduce crime. Since the UK now has around 260,000 heroin users, we can expect a lot of crime to pay for their addiction.
Just think logically about it. Poppy and hemp grow for next to nothing in a vast majority of places. If it were legal, there would be no need for heroin addicts to do crimes to fuel their addiction. This is because the drug provider has lower manufacturing costs and the regulation that comes with decriminalization creates a competitive market that lowers prices.
Plus in this article we see a specific example. [6] After the legalization of marijuana in Colorado: "According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the state saw an overall decrease of 1 percent in reported crimes for 2014. The state also saw an overall decrease of 2.5 percent in the crime rate per 100,000 people. Digging even deeper, Colorado experienced a 3.1 percent drop in property crimes and a 12.8 percent decrease in homicides."
The site goes further into how car theft, sexual assault, and burglaries have lowered as well. The overall crime rate only had a small percentage drop because pot is fairly affordable. This means addicts don't have to do crimes such as the ones detailed above.

In conclusion, the war on drugs have horribly failed and have caused many detriments to the health and somatic rights of the general population. Not only would the the abolition of the war on drugs and legalization of illegal drugs stop these harms it would also cause many advantages.



I.Using illegal drugs is illegal
Ia.This one is pretty simple. Illegal drugs are illegal, possessing and using them is breaking the law. When the law is broken, people are punished.

II.Punishment provides a great incentive to not commit crimes.
IIa.Washington University conducted a study that revealed how people are more responsive to punishment than they are to rewards [1]. If people aren"t as likely to respond to positive stimuli, they are even less likely to respond to a guarantee that the government will take care of them. Currently, prisoners with drug problems are being treated and rehabilitated while incarcerated [2]. The rehabilitation prepares prisoners for civilian society, while the jail time discourages them from using illegal drugs in the future.

III.Drug abuse negatively affects society
IIIa.Hurts families
IIIai.Families of those caught in addiction are often subject to physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse [3]. The U.S. government spends about $1 billion per year taking these children from their abusive families [3]. The effects of this abuse can lead to development issues and mental disorders later in life [4].
IIIb.Unborn children
IIIbi.Drug use, namely cocaine and marijuana, can affect fetal development [5]. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that children born to mothers who used drugs during pregnancy weighed less and had smaller heads, which can lead to difficulty in muscle growth and brain development [5, 6, 7].
IIIc.Overburdened institutions
Nearly 25% of all money spent on Medicare is directly related to drug abuse [3]. If people were told that the government would help them get over drug addictions without punishment, there would be far more people who are willing to do drugs. If they then go seek assistance, the government has two choices. It can either help the man and waste tax dollars that could have been saved if the drugs had remained illegal, or they can turn people away and create a society of addicted peoples receiving no help.
IIId.Professional impairment
IIIi.Truckers, drivers of public transport, and medical personnel are known to use illegal substances to help with their work [3]. This results in either traffic accidents or malpractice lawsuits with massive injuries, casualties, and costs in damages [3].

Debate Round No. 2


I will respond to Con's arguments while reinforcing mine.

I. Using Illegal Drugs is Illegal

This does not apply, the topic at hand is whether we ought to treat it as a matter of public health or criminal justice, not a matter of whether or not it is illegal. In con's own definition it is used to express obligation. Obligation in this context is a duty or commitment. Therefore the topic may be read as, The abuse of illegal drugs should be treated as a matter of public health, not criminal justice. "Should," in this context, also refers to a duty, or an obligation. This argument provides nothing for Con's side.

II. Punishment Stops Drug Use

Con's source [1] does not claim this has anything to do with drugs, this does not fully discredit it, but should be known. What I will be focusing on is how this is irrelevant. I have expressed in my opening statement how freedom should be. This is supported by John Stuart Mill with this quote, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Drug consumption does not inherently harm others, therefore the government has no right to determine whether or not we use and consume drugs.

Con makes the argument that prisoners are currently being rehabilitated but fails to see how overburdened, an argument he makes later on about medicare, the prison system is. Although the largest category of prisoners are drug offenders, thousands wait months to begin drug education/rehab. This is due primarily to staff shortages as well as resource limitations. [7] More than 51,000 inmates were on waiting lists in 2011, just for basic drug education. This number is even bigger than the 31,803 prisoners that were actually enrolled.

Not only does overcrowding stop rehabilitation, what the prison system should be about, it also causes overcrowding. It is an unfortunate circle. The system was holding 218,000 inmates, which is almost 40% more than capacity, and that stops all prisoners from getting the rehabilitation resources they need, which are pathways to early release. [7] In fact, this article shows how relapse is common after release from prison and only 3rd parties can stop it.[8] Here is what they concluded in their study:
"Former inmates return to environments that strongly trigger relapse to drug use and put them at risk for overdose. Interventions to prevent overdose after release from prison may benefit from including structured treatment with gradual transition to the community, enhanced protective factors, and reductions of environmental triggers to use drugs."

Circling back to the freedom argument, con has no ground to stand on. There is no justification to imprison people for consuming something. There are no grounds whatsoever. To win the freedom argument Con must prove that the act of consuming a drug infringes on someone else's freedoms. The reason why crimes done while under the influence of drugs is not a valid argument because it is entirely possible to not commit crimes while under the influence. Also, crimes while drunk are not a valid argument to abolish alcohol. It's the same sort of thing.

III. Drug abuse negatively affects society

IIIa. Family
This argument is only looking at addicted drug users let's see how many of those there are. (2014 census showed 318.9 million people in the US). "According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014." [9] This means 14.83% of the U.S. population battled drug abuse. If we adjust the number to fit people that are able to have a family, let's say age 18, we would reasonably get about 10%, If we adjust for those that do not have children we get 7.5% because roughly 75% of american's who were able to, had children. [10] This leaves us with the reasonable statistic that 7.5% of the population are subject to con's argument. Drug abuse in tandem with abuse is not common, so lets adjust for that down to 2.5%. This assumes that a third of the people that are subject to be the abusers in con's argument are actually abusing, which is extremely generous.

Of course this abuse is horrible, but that is no reason to justify taking away 100% of the population's somatic rights because of the wrong doings of 2.5% of the population.

IIIb. Unborn children
This is no reason for this to be a reasonable argument unless con is also advocating for the criminal punishment of all alcohol, tobacco, and anything else that effects prenatal development. The reason this argument doesn't apply is the same as before, it is perfectly possible and reasonable that drug users stop using drugs once pregnant or they don't get pregnant in the first place.

IIIc. Overburdened institutions
NOTE: Con's article also talk about the overburdened prisons because of drug criminalization, but they failed to mention that because it would contradict their other arguments. This goes to show that my point is true.

This argument is illogical. He states how much it costs to medicare but that doesn't prove anything. This argument suggests that helping people who are injured doing a recreational activity, in this case drugs, is costly. Or maybe con is saying we just shouldn't help injuries or other medical situations due to recreational activities. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, sports, driving for fun, public events, parties, etc. But hey, they knew the risks when they did those things so why should we help them when it goes wrong?

Con then goes on to claim that people would be more willing to do drugs if there was no punishment and the government would help them. He doesn't cite anything. I can cite what claims the exact opposite. [11]
"No. It would be much more difficult to buy dangerous hard drugs than now. If drugs were legal, people would be able to talk about them, they would not be so taboo or exciting. Drugs would become less cool. Maybe, people who have real problems would get help quickly. More people could be helped with the money saved in the police, customs and justice systems."
What is being referenced here is that the government would be regulating these drugs in such a way that they are safer, harder to get (require a permit or extra education to have), and stops drug crime.

IIId. Professional

Again, not a valid argument because it could be used for legal substances that alter the mind like alcohol, and those aren't illegal in every instance.


Con provided a lot of arguments that seem good on the surface, but just don't pan out.
Anything that Con has claimed as an impact is either outweighed, see Family abuse arguments, or not unique to illegal substances; see unborn children, overburdened institutions, and professional impairment arguments.

Con has not provided any significant argumentation that would sway the debate in their favor, I look forward to the rest of the debate!

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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TylerLamb 10 months ago
Just so you know, I'm doing what I can at school because I don't have internet at home. It I can't find time to finish before 3:00, I won't be able to finish over the weekend. Sorry.
Posted by SkySky16 10 months ago
Posted by TylerLamb 10 months ago
Am I supposed to respond only to your opening statement, or to the rebuttal as well?
Posted by SkySky16 10 months ago
Eh that's irrelevant in the modern war on drugs
Posted by CosmoJarvis 10 months ago
SkySky16, you should have included a Nixon adviser's commentary on Richard Nixon's "war on drugs." According to the adviser, the war on drugs was never meant to help people, but instead target certain groups, especially African Americans.
Posted by SkySky16 10 months ago
I didn't say they were entitled to it, just that they shouldn't be punished. If you want to continue this further challenge me to a debate
Posted by Iacov 10 months ago
No I but I don't think the circumstances of one should entitle them to the work of another if you say the begged is entitled to that bred you are saying the baker must give away his product without return.
Posted by SkySky16 10 months ago
The main reason they shouldn't is because they were simply looking out for their own survival. Do you really value a loaf of bread over someone's life?
Posted by Iacov 10 months ago
Yes why shouldn't they?
Posted by SkySky16 10 months ago
Well that is just too black and white, if a poor and starving person steals a loaf of bread should they still be punished?
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