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It is not obvious how successful the war on drugs is, in part because it is not clear what success is.

Drugs cause deaths, and the war on drugs causes deaths.

One possible metric is how many people die from the war per death caused by drugs.

That is not a direct measure of success because it is relevant how a person is related to the drug. Also, changing one of the numbers changes the other too..

I would think it is hard to find absolute numbers for any of these, and even harder in a way that makes them comparable. I imagine it is hard because the numbers refer to different geographic regions, so they would be from different sources.

But there could be an estimate independent of the global numbers. That could be local numbers from some special situation, or based on a theoretical model.

Are there any estimates on the numbers, or the ratio of the numbers? Or at least which of them is larger?

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    Given how estimating the death toll from the war on drugs requires speculating as to how many of the deaths in the drug trade are due to prohibition policies, and how some of the deaths caused by the war on drugs are (arguably) themselves deaths from taking drugs, I highly doubt you will get any kind of satisfactory answer to the question in its current form. – CoedRhyfelwr Dec 13 '19 at 12:41
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    How do you define as death by war on drugs? Activly killed or killed through missing regulations, enabling way worse mixtures and toxins in drugs for the users, which cause the death. Because in Bavaria (afaik) the number for the first would be 1 in the last years (a warning shot in the back of the head) and for the latter it would be about 80% of the drug abuse victims. – miep Dec 13 '19 at 13:17
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    Are you interested in all lives "lost", including those incarcerated for life? – Peter Dec 13 '19 at 13:39
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    An additional consideration would be those killed by crime because the war on drugs causes drug prices to be high giving an incentive to addicts to commit crimes. Also, even if you get some numbers, the immediate objection would "if there had been no war on drugs then deaths caused by drugs would have been way higher". – SJuan76 Dec 13 '19 at 14:56
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    @miep I'm aware of the complexity of the issue, and I think an answer indicating orders of magnitude, and which of the numbers is larger, actually is a good answer. I see the whole issue as a very large complex dynamical system There is quite some science how to approach that in the mathematical theory of dynamical systems. – Volker Siegel Dec 14 '19 at 2:16
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There is a saying, "War is continuation of politics by other means." And ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus once said, "In war, truth is is the first casualty."

That's why it's so hard to get a straight answer about the facts in any war, including The War on Drugs.

When people die from a drug overdose, then you can blame it either on the authorities, or on the drug addicts, or on the people who make drugs and sell them.

It's all a matter of whose side you are on.

The authorities can be blamed, because they are the ones who prohibit manufacturing of safe drugs with known strengths and doses.

Drug addicts can be blamed, because they are the ones who choose to take drugs that might be poorly made and unsafe.

And drug makers and sellers can be blamed for having poor manufacturing standards and for not making sure that the drugs they make and sell have known doses and strengths.

If you ask the anti-drug authorities, then they will blame those who oppose them. And that's how all sides normally behave in any war. It's always the other side's fault, when you ask either one side or the other.

When Alcohol was made illegal in USA during the Prohibition years, then a lot of people either died or went blind from drinking poorly made alcohol that contained a lot of Methanol, instead of Ethanol.

And this was because many people were making alcohol in shoddy facilities without much knowledge of how to do it properly.

It was a similar situation to what is happening now with prohibited drugs. But blaming somebody for this is taking sides in The War on Drugs. You can't assign responsibility without taking sides.

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  • So... what's the death toll of the War on Drugs compared to the death toll from drugs? I don't see how providing objective statistics on that would count as "taking sides". – F1Krazy Dec 14 '19 at 15:49
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    The war on drugs makes drugs unsafe to consume. Because such war degrades the quality of drug manufacturing. Which means that the War on Drugs causes both types of deaths. That's why you can't objectively separate these two causes in statistics or any other kind of logic. – user29459 Dec 14 '19 at 16:27

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