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The twenty-six articles in this edited volume provide perspective on the interrelated issues surrounding the use of drugs in society. Although drugs have long been a social problem, the importance of the issue—and the involvement of the criminal justice system—have varied across time. Public concern has typically centered on illegal drugs, but the drug issue today is even more complex given the impact of prescription drugs. Exaggeration has been a constant theme in the history of public policy on drugs, usually playing on public fear to demonize specific drugs and users. Some drugs are more dangerous than others. The variations in effects impact enforcement, prevention, and treatment. If we are going to criminalize drugs and drug usage, policies and penalties should be based on the relative dangerousness of a drug or class of drugs.

Policies can reduce harm, create harm, or both. Our current drug policies attempt to reduce harm through law enforcement. We arrest anyone involved in drug activities under the premise of protecting society. These same policies, however, result in the incarceration of large numbers of people; they are expensive; they overburden the criminal justice system; and they have lasting consequences for those caught up in the drug war no matter how minor their offenses. Drug policies should be weighed carefully, implementing those that result in the least amount of harm to society. The editors have collected timely articles that provide perspective and a foundation for an informed approach to addressing problems associated with drug use.
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