In my story, there is a city which has fallen from grace and is embroiled in gang wars, drug cartels, and other generally high crime rates. When the main characters come in, the condition has been mismanaged by the city's government, making a bad situation worse in a way that I want to mirror the modern war on drugs. The main characters are meant to correct the situation.

What can we do to make the war on drugs actually successful? What tactics and policies have been implemented with success already?

  • $\begingroup$ See the episode of “Adam Ruins Everything”. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Dec 29, 2016 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ Problem is, "war on drugs" is the problem, likely more so than actual drugs. Drugs themselves are a symptom of severe social problems. Broken families, disenfranchisement, lack of agency, abuse (also from employers or government), depressions... Genuinely happy people don't need drugs. Drugs are a symptom of ill society, and "war" only makes it worse. Incarceration won't treat those who already are addicted and instead turns everyone into criminal. (USA has one of the worst prison systems in 1st world). You need rehabilitation programs and social changes to decrease demand. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Dec 29, 2016 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ @M i ech: +1 for the "War on Drugs" being the problem. But most people do use drugs of one sort or another, now and then. Ever been to "Happy Hour" at your local bar? The solution is simply to declare peace. Make drugs legal, and the drug cartels go away. Since they're legal, they're cheap. Drug users no longer need to steal (or at least not nearly as much), so crime rates drop. Legal means boring, so fewer people are tempted to use drugs for the thrill. And now you can use all the money you were spending on law enforcement to address social problems. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 29, 2016 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


The problem with being a city is it’s still subject to the laws of the enclosing political entities. Unless you can get it to be fairly autonomous, or perhaps set up as a social experiment by the larger nation, you can’t change the war’s own interaction with the problem.

In particular, you need to decriminalize the various substances that keep the gangs in power. Why do shady deals with a gangster when you can go to a proper store that’s accountable and provides legal recourse to customers who are cheated etc.?

Everything that fuels the black economy and gang power base should be dragged into the light, regulated, and taxed.

A recent show I saw that includes references and citations(!) mentioned a study comparing well-matched populations of black vs hispanic incarceration rates and gang activity, which concludes that the difference is the presence or absence of a strong father figure. Using this as an example, provide family support and youth programs. Find various studies that credibly show root causes or necessary criteria, and address those. Note that this means really addressing the causes, not getting the program watered down or politicked into some near-miss or ignored due to religious reasons.

A good story would be to turn everything on its head. Find every way that current policies and programs are causing the problems, and do the opposite.


The Chinese and Singapore approach (execution) has been implemented and proven successful. It ended the scourge of opium addiction that the UK fomented in China in late 19th century. As far as I know, there are no more opium dens. I'm sure elites still chase the dragon, but with a population of 1.2-billion they are a rounding error. Executions worked in China.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have evidence for the effectiveness of Chinese and Singaporean policies? On the plus side, if we wait a little while, we can see how this plays out in the Philippines, which is going this route right now. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Dec 29, 2016 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ I've no evidence regarding whether it was causation or correlation that eliminated recreational drug use. But, China's "century of humiliation" began with mass drug addiction. To protect China, I'm gonna guess that every patriot Chinese would snitch on anyone trafficking drugs and maybe that is why, and not the death penalty. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 22:32

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