Two of the most important policy strategies for dealing with alcohol problems and their damaging consequences are prohibition and harm reduction. The materials assigned for this week’s readings and posted in Unit 8 of the Online Review provide numerous examples of these alternative strategies. Based on those materials and other sources, I want you to compare and contrast these two approaches to “getting a grip” on alcohol-related problems in U.S. society. Generally, prohibitionist policies aim to control alcohol-related problems by banning the use of alcohol. These strategies are sometimes known as “zero-tolerance” or “abstinence only” policies. The majority of alcohol treatment programs in the U.S. fall in this category, including AA and programs based on a disease model. The most notorious example of this approach is the Prohibition era, when alcohol was constitutionally banned from the U.S. from 1920-1933. The Lectures page for Unit 8 in the Online Review provides you with material on this “Great Experiment” and its implications for the more recent prohibitionist “War on Drugs.” Less extreme examples of policies that restrict access to alcohol are discussed in the reading by Gruenewald (2011). On the other hand, harm reduction policies attempt to limit or minimize the hazardous consequences of alcohol (or drug) use without necessarily limiting or banning use itself (see Marlatt and Witkiewitz 2010). For instance, instead of having “zero tolerance” for drinking or drug use, harm reduction strategies might include the goals of “safer use” or “managed use.” Examples range from needle-exchange programs to reduce the risks of HIV infection among drug users to the sale of beer on college campuses to reduce risks of drunk driving (or walking) to-and-from off-campus bars. The Resources page for Unit 8 focuses on another example of harm reduction: the “wet house” for homeless, alcohol-dependent men. Your comparison of prohibition and harm reduction strategies should: (1) begin with a clear discussion of their respective characteristics and differences; (2) present one or two examples of how they would deal differently with particular alcohol problems; and (3) conclude with your evaluation of the relative strengths or limitations of each approach. You can use material from Week 7 readings, the Online Review, or other legitimate sources from publications or the internet, but be sure to cite, quote, and reference your sources properly. I have a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding plagiarism!
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