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Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know [Kindle Edition]

Mark A.R. Kleiman , Jonathan Caulkins , Angela Hawken
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

While there have always been norms and customs around the use of drugs, explicit public policies--regulations, taxes, and prohibitions--designed to control drug abuse are a more recent phenomenon. Those policies sometimes have terrible side-effects: most prominently the development of criminal enterprises dealing in forbidden (or untaxed) drugs and the use of the profits of drug-dealing to finance insurgency and terrorism. Neither a drug-free world nor a world of free drugs seems to be on offer, leaving citizens and officials to face the age-old problem: What are we going to do about drugs?
In Drugs and Drug Policy, three noted authorities survey the subject with exceptional clarity, in this addition to the acclaimed series, What Everyone Needs to Know. They begin by, defining "drugs," examining how they work in the brain, discussing the nature of addiction, and exploring the damage they do to users. The book moves on to policy, answering questions about legalization, the role of criminal prohibitions, and the relative legal tolerance for alcohol and tobacco. The authors then dissect the illicit trade, from street dealers to the flow of money to the effect of catching kingpins, and show the precise nature of the relationship between drugs and crime. They examine treatment, both its effectiveness and the role of public policy, and discuss the beneficial effects of some abusable substances. Finally they move outward to look at the role of drugs in our foreign policy, their relationship to terrorism, and the ugly politics that surround the issue.
Crisp, clear, and comprehensive, this is a handy and up-to-date overview of one of the most pressing topics in today's world.

Editorial Reviews Review

What Everyone Needs to Know


Who it's for:

Busy people with diverse interests, ranging from college students to professionals, who wish to inform themselves in a succinct yet authoritative manner about a particular topic.

What's inside:

An incisive approach to a complex and timely issue, laid out in a straight-forward, question-and-answer format.

Meet Our Authors

Top experts in their given fields, ranging from an Economist correspondent to a director at the Council on Foreign Relations, you can trust our authors’ expertise and guidance.

Popular Topics in the "What Everyone Needs to Know" Series

  • International Politics
  • Environmental Policies
  • World History
  • Sciences & Math
  • Religion & Spirituality


"Drugs and Drug Policy is the product of scholarly work but comes in the form of a guidebook of answers to questions simple and complex about everything to do with the two topics. It is fit for both the policymaker and the concerned parent (how many books can this be said of?) because it combines a rigorous analytical approach to drugs without skipping over the social reasons the topic deserves to be discussed in the home. Kleiman, Caulkins and Hawken's review of the nuances of the drug issue can't help but elicit an appreciation for the variety of approaches against drug use that could supplement or substitute for our current top-down one."

"Drugs and Drug Policy is a practical book which aims to debunk myths...thoughtful and clearly written." - The Economist

"A product of genius, in form and content: more than two hundred questions, all relevant and urgent, with succinct and lucid answers. When I started the book, I had strong opinions on many of the topics it covered; again and again--every time the book came into conflict with my original beliefs--the authors changed my mind. If you care about drugs, you need to read this book. If you don't, read it anyway, just to see how it's done." --Thomas Schelling, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

"In this deceptively simple book, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Angela Hawken eviscerate many of the arguments behind the policies that have been the leading weapons in the war on drugs. But they also cast a skeptical eye on some shibboleths of the burgeoning drug reform movement...the authors' penetrating and nuanced critique of the growing calls for legalization is one of the highlights of the book." -- The New Republic

"This book is incredibly useful, in both format and content. It has made me more aware than ever of the extent to which people are either uninformed or misinformed about most issues having to do with drug policy, drug trafficking, and criminal activity. If Washington's political leaders, government officials, and policy analysts give the book the wide attention it deserves, we might finally begin the kind of serious, rational debate about drug issues that the US and the rest of the world desperately needs." --Peter Hakim, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Inter-American Dialogue

"[The authors] ask the right questions, and their answers and discussions can benefit anyone connected to the subject-users and enforcers, policy makers and implementers, innocent bystanders and citizens...worth reading." -Tickle the

"An easy-to-read, authoritative guide to the key issues...[The authors] aren't trying to make friends, they are trying to tell the truth as evidence or logic leads them." --Eric Sterling, President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Sterling on Justice & Drugs

"The authors are refreshingly candid about the trade-offs and limitations of drug policy, and through a series of brief answers to 143 questions, they provide a well-written and generally fair-minded summary of the vast literatures bearing on drug problems." --Health Affairs

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Undergraduate Courses June 13, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I used a preview version of this book for a class on illegal drug markets. In the past, I used academic articles by these same authors for issues like supply side drug enforcement efforts,and legalization. This book has the same authority and non-dogmatic presentation as those articles, but is more accessible. As a result of the introductory information, my students seemed to be better prepared to debate complex topics like legalization intelligently. I found the comparisons with alcohol and tobacco to be very helpful for my students, who for some reasons tend to see illegal drugs as very different substances.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely useful for policymakers June 15, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kleiman, Caulkins, and Hawken have pulled a great coup with this volume. They managed to condense, in very readable terms, layer upon layer of scholarly research about the many facets of drug policy. Their encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject matter, combined with a breezy style, allows the reader to quickly make sense of complex and controversial issues. This is not, however, a dry reference book: the authors have strong, sometimes eccentric opinions that will not be to everyone's liking. But that is indeed one of this book's strenghts: it allows its pages to feel as an animated conservation with three very smart people.

Anyone with even a passing interest in drugs or drug policy should buy this book; and for policymakers involved in drug issues, this should be required reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for reports June 14, 2011
This book will be great for public libraries. High school students and undergraduates looking for information on drug policy will find this a
good source that lays out the facts in an easy to follow manner.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fails to to reach its logical conclusion January 12, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kleiman, Caulkins & Hawken do an overall good job at presenting the various sides of the war on drugs conundrum, and their book is indeed an easy read. But this comes at a price as their perspective is sometimes simplistic and self-serving. While they do not seem to deny that the current prohibitionist policies have created a big mess, they seem to believe that alternatives would be far worse, while they fail to truly explore all the viable alternatives. Between prohibition and free market, there is a continuum of options and free-market is certainly not the only alternative. Likewise, regulations should differ widely according to the substance, the mode of administration and the type of user. Kleiman & all correctly point out a variety of potential problems, such as the potential conflicts of interests between the various actors of a regulated drug marketplace, pitting employees and shareholders against regulators. They also correctly bundle all psychoactive substances, at least to a certain point, but they fail to push their observations to its logical conclusion. The vast majority of psychoactive substances are legal, and those that are currently illegal can be compared to legal counterparts that are at least as potentially harmful, therefore there is no logical rationale for the legal status of the substances currently illicit. As the authors correctly point out, the prohibition of certain substances create a dangerous black-market, as well as all kinds of derived problems due to complete lack of quality control and unsanitary administration practices among others. Altogether, the unintended consequences of prohibition bear a huge economic, societal and human toll, with marginal effects on price and availability. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! April 12, 2012
Ever since President Nixon launched the war on drugs some 50-years ago, mounting evidence reports that many drug policies more harm than good. While written by academics, the book is comprehensive, written in an easy-to-read style, and the material is inclusive (not one-sided).

Drug use often isn't a problem, per the authors. Most do so in a reasonably controlled fashion and without much harm to themselves or others. About 3 million (less than 1% of our population) consume 80% of illegal hard drugs. (It's amazing how widely applicable Pareto's Law is!) Those looking to make an impact need to focus on those users, not the 80% that use only 20%. Unfortunately, that has not been the case - more are imprisoned for drug offenses than for property crimes, and though we spend 5X more jailing drug dealers than 30 years ago, heroin and cocaine are 80 - 90% cheaper than 30 years ago.

Alcohol kills more than all illicit drugs combined - 85,000 vs. 17,000 in 2000, per a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Alcohol also has far more addicted users.

The 'good news' is that drug consumers are not a significant part of those filling our prisons - drug dealers are. The authors suggest smarter enforcement - concentrating on violent dealers, though they reject legalization as too scary to experiment with. A Boston program promised to come down on all gang members if any utilized violence - the result was a sharp drop in homicides over a two-year period.

The authors contend that imprisoning low-value dealers is pointless - a $200 transaction can cost society $100,000 for a three-year sentence and produces large numbers emerging from prison with blighted employment prospects.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
book came as expected in the condition stated
Published 8 days ago by janixza domenech
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative book that does not take sides
Good book that's very informative and objective about this topic. The whole thing is organized into questions about drugs and drug policy. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nick
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read
Excellent book for people starting to study the world of drugs, or that want simpler explanations for such a complicated topic. Very recomendable.
Published 3 months ago by Luisa Sanchez Iriarte Mendoza
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
There is a lot of info in here. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but much of it is thought provoking. Read more
Published 16 months ago by my name
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth the Paper it's Written On
Kleinman claims he's all for drug policy, yet in this video he's in kahooz with drug legalizers. Kelinman's book is lacking in understanding of the recovery process and shows no... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Alexandra D Datig
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable source of information
Being an analyst who follows the drug war in Mexico on a daily basis, I was really interested in this book to learn more about the drugs themselves, rather than just how they were... Read more
Published on October 6, 2011 by Sylvia Longmire
4.0 out of 5 stars For every parent
This book is really about things parents should know.
First to be able to tell the truth to their kids and second to know themselves about it.
Published on August 13, 2011 by quebecpq
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary (and surprisingly light) reading for those engaged with...
This little gem provides a concise, clear, and essentially complete introduction to the fundamental underlying dynamics of drugs and drug policy. Read more
Published on June 20, 2011 by RWM
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for Undergraduate Classes
I am a professor of Criminal Justice/Public Administration and Policy at UAlbany. I used a preview version of this book for an upper level seminar (N=20)on illegal markets. Read more
Published on June 14, 2011 by Shawn Bushway
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More About the Author

Mark A. R. Kleiman

Mark A.R. Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His teaching and research cover drug policy, crime control policy, and methods of policy analysis. His books include *Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control* and *Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results*, and *When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment* (one of The Economist's "Books of the Year" for 2009).

Most recently, he has joined Jonathan Caulkins, Angela, Hawken, and Beau Kilmer in writing two books in Oxford's "What Everyone Needs to Know" series, one on *Drug Policy* and, most recently, one on *Marijuana Legalization*. He edits the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis and blogs at The Reality-Based Community ( His essay in Foreign Affairs, "Surgical Strikes in the Drug Wars: Smarter Strategies for Both Sides of the Border," presents an innovative approach to reducing drug-trafficking violence.

Mr. Kleiman studied political science, philosophy, and economics at Haverford College and received his Master of Public Policy degree and his Ph.D. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he also taught before coming to UCLA. His governmental experience includes stints on Capitol Hill (working for Les Aspin), in Boston City Hall, and at the Justice Department. His firm, BOTEC Analysis Corporation, advises local, state, and national governments on drug policy and crime control.


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