Anyone’s Child

The War on Drugs: officially, fought to keep your kid safe, your neighbourhood friendly and your street clean. But the failing efficacy of this war introduced the campaigners of ‘Anyone’s Child’ to a whole new different fight.

In 1971 President Nixon declared drug abuse the public enemy number one. This was the answer to a previous released, explosive report on the growing heroin epidemic among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; ten to fifteen percent of soldiers were addicted.

In the 80ies the Reagan administration launched the ‘Just say no’ campaign. First Lady Nancy Reagan being the voice of stern responsibility. Telling teenagers what to do without any explanation of why to do so. Also, the campaign shows how much fun it is to be responsible. It is everything that adolescents stand for…  Clearly.

All tough anti-drug campaigns have (luckily) diversified over the years, the message only ever came from one perspective: that drugs must be illegal to stop people from using them.

And this is where the ‘wacky’ ideas of people like the members of ‘Anyone’s Child’ come in. What if, instead of patronising and punishing people, governments educate them, set up a legal frame and let them think for themselves? If people still decide to use drugs, which some of them will, then they must not buy them from the street without knowing what they are cut with. They must not go to prison if the drug harms them, but to a doctor. Lives will not be ruined or lost to the drug war and thanks to the creation of safe spaces, predictably also not to drugs.

Now I know, reality is, that drugs are incredible dangerous. So, who are these people, asking to expose our children to drug policies that make them more approachable?

Anyone’s child is a unison of families who have lost family members to the drug war. Be it an accidental overdose, a fatal consequence of the raging organised crime (between 2007 and 2014 more than 164,000 people were victims of homicide in Mexico alone. A direct consequence of the war on drugs) or a prison sentence in the double digits – these families have learned of the failure of the war on drugs the hardest way.

To make people understand, they tell their stories:

A mother that has lost her child to drugs calls for drug legalization is a staggering story, one that will make people stop. Listen. Think twice. (Stekelenburg and Klandermans, 2010).

Politicians have made drugs handling a highly topical issue. The clear, one sided frame did not allow space for criticism or alternative approaches. But after all this time (the first prohibition act was introduced as early as 1914 in the US) and millions of lives lost it is time to look at it through a different frame (Polletta, 1998).


van Stekelenburg, J. and Klandermans, B. (2010). The Social Psychology of Protest. Sociopedia.ica. Available at: [Accessed 03 November 2016].

Polletta, F. (1998). Contending Stories: Narrative in Social Movements. Qualitative Sociology, 21(4), 419–446.

10 thoughts on “Anyone’s Child

  1. Aiming to re-frame the debate on drugs through the stories of parents left behind, definitely makes it hard to refute the alternative policies being called for. Sadly, in the social movement strong and upsetting stories are easy to come by, so we must call on these more x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! We must aim to look at this topic from a different perspective and then collectively work out ways to support everyone, shut out organised crimes and decrease the drug-taking risks as much as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely an interesting and always relevant topic. In your conception, do you think that all drugs should be legal, or just ‘softer’ ones?
    There are also middle grounds, for example I believe that in Switzerland it is possible to obtain clean needles and inject in specified, regulated centres, to get people off the street and ensure that the likelihood of diseases borne by needle sharing is reduced.
    I’m sure you’re right that framing is very important here. It will take a long time to stop people associated drug use with crime, violence etc., rather than seeing those things as aspects of the war on drugs.


    1. That is a very good question. Drug policies changed all around the world in the recent years. As you said, Switzerland has a very progressive approach towards heroin addiction. Also Portugal and Uruguay have decriminalized all drugs. Studies show, that in Portugal (Reform was introduced in 2001) for example the Drug consumption amongst adolescents has gone down in recent years. In Portuguese schools children are in an open dialogue with their teachers about drugs. And education works its magic: inform people properly and trust that they will make the right decision – in the most cases. Drug-related pathologies – such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage – on the other hand have decreased dramatically.

      So I do think that this middle ground of decriminalizing hard drugs and legalising soft drugs is for now the best way. Once the discourse around the topic has changed, a thoroughly regulated legalisation for all drugs would be possible and will be a major win against organised crime.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting post. In Massachusetts they have just legalised marijuana (to set limits) and time will tell if this helps or hinders an escalating war on drugs that parts of the state is having. For example, with a growing heroin problem because these drugs are cheap, easy to come and thus become addicted to as pain-killers or other reasons. I think these types of stories, told directly from parents, help other parents learn how they might talk to their children about these issues that kids will face a choice about at some stage in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find your take on the ‘war on drugs’ really intriguing. I agree with you that you cannot just tell someone not to do something without educating them on what happens if they do, what are the downsides, are there any upsides, etc. This reminds me of studies that were done in the United States that showed that states that taught abstinence only sexual education saw much higher rates of teen pregnancy ( If you just tell people not to do something and do not educate them on that subject, they are still likely to do it, they just have a higher chance of not understanding what it is they are doing.


  5. I agree with the belief that drugs should be decriminalised and made safer for users. After all, drugs are and have always been inflexible products with an enduring public demand. It is disheartening to note that Nixon intended to implement a progressive drugs policy during his tenure but revised his position to pander to a wider constituency. It seems that successive presidents since the 1970’s have continued to adhere to the “law and order” paradigm. If you haven’t already, check out ‘The House I Live In’ on Netflix!

    Liked by 1 person

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