So even if the drug war has been a disaster, it is not clear precisely what an alternative policy looks like, or how it should be rolled out. Loewenstein does some good work sketching elements of it, and elaborates some ideas in a penultimate chapter titled “Solutions”, but they lack the eye-witness acuity and rigorous scepticism he brings to the drug war itself. That, perhaps, could be his next book.
We need to dispense with this pharmacological puritanism. Sensible drug policies begin with the acknowledgment that for the majority who use them drugs are, at least for them, a relatively harmless source of relaxation and escapism. A minority need help to get off drugs, not criminalisation. Humans have been getting high since time immemorial; the war on drugs is unwinnable because it is a war against human nature. And the only thing wars against human nature ever produce, as Loewenstein shows in this lucid and well-researched book, are piles of dead bodies.