The “War on Drugs”: A Failed Paradigm

  • Fida Mohammad
  • Gregory Fulkerson


For nearly half a century, immense resources in the form of time and money have been poured into the empty ideological paradigm that is the “war on drugs-” The logic of this war is predicated on the naïve theory that “if the production can be halted, the market is not supplied, so consumers cannot purchase and use the substance.”1 After decades of experience, the futility of this approach has become clear to scholars and practitioners. We question, then, why governments, such as that of the US, have remained committed to the war on drugs paradigm. In considering this, we draw from the ideas of Kuhn,2 who popularized the concept of paradigm, and from Popper,3 who is best known for his notion of fais inability. In short, Popper claimed that theoretical ideas should be subjected to empirical scrutiny and, when appropriate, be falsified and rejected. However, this is often not what happens. As Kuhn noted, even in the face of contradictory evidence, social groups may remain committed to a paradigm and refuse to discuss the matter further creating and perpetuating a culture of epistemic closure. In spite of this entrenched commitment to the war on drugs paradigm, we see hope that a competing paradigm—a sustainable development or “public health” paradigm—may be gaining traction in at least some parts of the world.


Organize Crime Drug Policy Drug Trade Epistemic Closure World Drug Report 
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© Fida Mohammad and Gregory Fulkerson 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fida Mohammad
  • Gregory Fulkerson

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