Recreational Drugs

Markets for recreational drugs like heroin and cocaine can also teach us about controversial markets more generally. Drug use is controversial because of the harms it can cause, and also due to moral objections. Most countries have responded to these concerns by making the use of certain recreational drugs illegal.  But there are unintended consequences to such laws, including the rise of black markets, gang violence, and substitution effects that lead to the development of even more dangerous drugs. The PPE approach can help students weigh the moral and practical consequences of different policy approaches regarding drug use.

Additional Readings and Videos

Here are recommended readings and additional videos that could be added to a syllabus or lesson plan on this topic.

Books and Articles

Flanigan, Jessica. Pharmaceutical Freedom: Why Patients Have a Right to Self Medicate. (2017) Oxford University Press.

Laquer, Hannah. “Uses and Abuses of Drug Decriminalization in Portugal” (2015) Law & Social Inquiry (40) 3: 746-781.

Husak, Doug and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs. (2005) Cambridge University Press.


NPR’s Fresh Air “Tracking the World’s Black Market: ‘Illicit’”