This article presents what Americans think about the policies subsumed
under the label of the "War on Drugs." It is based on an analysis of 47 national
surveys conducted between 1978 and 1997. The major results are that most Americans
rely on the mass media for information about the scope of the drug abuse problem;
Americans do not think that the Wars on Drugs have succeeded, but they do
not want to quit on these efforts; weak support exists for increasing funding
for drug treatment; support for preventive education has increased during
the 1990s; criminal justice responses remain very popular; for many, illicit
drug use is a moral rather than a public health issue; the public supports
allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana for severe illness, but opposes
the general legalization of marijuana and other illicit drugs; and needle
exchange programs are supported by a bare majority, but only when they are
told that the American Medical Association supports these programs.
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