In This Review

Global Habit: The Drug Problem in a Borderless World
Global Habit: The Drug Problem in a Borderless World
By Paul B. Stares
Brookings, 1996, 171 pp

The consumption of cocaine and heroin has often been viewed as just one more manifestation of American social ills. Unhappily, the habit is spreading, not only to Europe but to other parts of the world that have growing numbers of listless urban youth, universally accompanied by increased crime that is attracted by high profits and demand that is insensitive to prices. This book merely whets one's appetite on drug use as a transnational issue. The same improvements in transportation and communication that make increasing globalization of legitimate business attractive have made drug distribution easier and more lucrative. This is a problem that will require ever-closer intergovernmental cooperation, and the book usefully sketches the history of international cooperation on this problem over the past century. The negative approach of regarding drug production and distribution exclusively as a law enforcement issue, the book points out, despite numerous tactical successes, has not stopped or even slowed drug use. Nor is it likely to do so, not least because drug profits corrupt politicians and law enforcement officials, especially in poor countries. The book disappoints in only touching on decriminalization and curiously fails to evaluate its various experiments in other countries. It largely eschews quantification, so the reader is unclear in what respects the situation in the United States and Europe is improving or seriously worsening. And it only briefly sketches a positive approach involving prevention and treatment that might be effective when combined with attacks on production, distribution, and financing. But it is a useful start on a topic of great importance to 21st-century society.