The global recession of 2008 dragged on until 2020, with a steady stream of mini growth and slump cycles reverberating around the world. India, Russia and China continued on their trajectory of economic growth whilst Europe and the UK struggled to regain economic stability. Many nations of Africa and other developing nations descended into chaos as the number of failed states grew. The US, although still a major economic force had lost its position as a world leader as it struggled to kick start sustained economic growth. Despite the activities of global citizens movements which had gathered pace by 2012, their calls for change were not heeded and it was business as usual, muddling through.
But by 2016, much sooner than had been predicted, the environmental consequences of 20th century explosive economic growth saw island nations evacuating their populations to escape sea level rises, intensifying extreme weather events and failing crops as people around the world watched in horror at the unfolding events and the terrible human cost of inaction on climate change.
Drought in the US west coast, Australia and consecutive years of hot European summers led to crop failures in viticulture regions of the world, hops and barley crops were similarly effected leading to global shortages of wine and beer and skyrocketing prices. By 2017, spirits were the most affordable type of alcohol. Food prices were increasing, many foods were in short supply and China and India continued seeking investment in other regions to secure food supply for their large populations.
The social problems of economic hardship, natural disasters and the mass movements of population in the form of climate refugees impacted in the developed world and galvanised governments to action to work together to address the looming problems collectively and quickly. Through a series of UN emergency summits throughout 2017, international agreements worked towards the rapid reduction of carbon emissions, large scale carbon sequestration, a global cap and trade system and measures to restore stability to planetary ecosystems.
By 2020, there were significant reductions in the rise of atmospheric carbon levels and a new optimism that international coordination and cooperation was achievable. The return to prosperity in many nations was accompanied by the growing realisation that regulation was what had been missing throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and citizens from all countries began to embrace the concept that tighter constraints were necessary.
The US, particularly troubled by long term high unemployment, was experiencing a wave of drug and alcohol epidemics, fuelled by spirits, cocaine and methamphetamine. By 2018, the Tea Party was the major political force, promising a return to better times through a 21st century version of the temperance movement. Sarah Palin swept into power in 2020 and immediately began addressing what were perceived as drug fuelled social problems (rather than social fuelled drug problems) as a political priority.
In this new era of international cooperation and growing rejection of individualism and consumerism which had characterised the previous boom times, citizens of the US were ready for change. and when the government responded to extend the prohibition on drugs to alcohol, people were divided, but not enough to block the passage of legislation. And just as they had done a century before with the global narcotics prohibition, the US sought to extend the alcohol prohibition globally to make it possible to bring the situation under control at home.
By 2020, technological innovations to combat climate change had been a growth area in many economies, and Asia was enjoying a period of sustained economic growth. As the US and Europe began to recover, all countries were faced with having to address the global drug epidemic, the rapidly expanding global trafficking of drugs, and now alcohol.
Negotiations in the UN led to a series of international agreements culminating in the 2030 Single Convention on Psychoactive Drugs, which effectively enacted a global prohibition on narcotic drugs and alcohol. While many countries opposed this general prohibition, many nations of the Middle East, which had never legalised alcohol, lent support and a functional model of alcohol prohibition to the US and China. The UK, crippled by drug and alcohol problems, was also an ardent supporter of prohibition and saw a loss in taxation revenue through legal sale of alcohol as a necessary, if short term sacrifice to combat its problem and help get its citizens off the booze and back to work. As with the previous UN narcotic conventions, not every country was signatory to the agreement. France, Germany and Australia, and other countries remained outside the agreement with respect to alcohol, although most adopted stricter regulatory regimes for alcohol purchase.
In this new era of prohibition, increased international cooperation, particularly between China and the US, was extended from the 20th century “war on drugs” prohibition, and existing US military and intelligence infrastructure was used and expanded to combat the war on drugs and alcohol. The newest trafficking routes through West Africa and Asia were immediately tackled in an attempt to disrupt illegal global supply, of particular interest to China whos food secutiry depended on political and social stability in many African nations. A return to boom times guaranteed the availability of funds to maintain the program.
By the mid ‘30s, heroine, cocaine and amphetamines were still widely available, but illegal and alcohol smuggling had now joined the narcotic trade as the biggest transnational illicit industry in the order of one trillion dollars annually. Citizens of the countries caught in the web of trafficking continued to risk becoming victims of crime, extortion, corruption and the associated trade in human and arms trafficking.
In many countries, the use of some drugs, like cocaine, opiates and alcohol had declined, whist others like amphetamines and marijuana saw increases. Countries which had adopted particularly harsh punishment regimes for drug and alcohol use saw the biggest drops in use.
Technology advances saw the introduction of new control methods during the 2020s. All vehicles had inbuilt sensing systems, disabling car ignitions when breath alcohol was detected. Work places also had to comply with strict alcohol detection regulations. By 2030, drug (and alcohol) related road and workplace accidents had reached record lows, but drug and particularly alcohol related deaths were increasing as tough prohibition led to adulteration of illegal drugs and increased the dangers of their use. Boom times required a constant supply of recreational party drugs and ever present illegal drug factories kept the global supply flowing. New illegal synthetic drugs were regularly entering the market, causing cyclic epidemics and new rounds of law enforcement crack downs.
New routes of illicit drug distribution were improved through communication technologies. Throughout the 20s, distribution and online “drug shopping” had become increasingly difficult to track as dealers used the deep internet to evade detection. Countermeasures to keep pace with IT in the illicit trade were constantly being developed.
By the ‘30s, the biggest growth industry in drugs was in legally available prescription drugs. Certain classes of drugs had always been available for therapeutic use, and as the prohibition curbed supply of alcohol, those who were never compelled to risk the illegal route to satisfy their need for psychoactive enhancement sought legal alternatives. Millions of young adults who had been prescribed stimulants like Ritalin to enhance school performance as children, now continued to access legally available prescription medication, as well as continuing on the stimulant path with cocaine. Older workers, no longer retiring in their 60s were relying on these same stimulant medications to sustain their working capacity into their 80s. The pharmaceutical industry continued aggressive marketing and political lobbying to sustain the legal supply of psychoactive substances, including “relaxants” to replace alcohol and “stimulants” to enhance work performance, all under the new categories of “performance enhancers”, social “rescue remedies” and a whole improved catalogue of anti anxiety, anti depressant, anti fat and anti thin drugs. The new pharmaceutical boom saw the introduction of vaccines for nicotine, opiates and cocaine, and after many countries introduced compulsory vaccination programs to school students, illegal use of these drugs declined dramatically after 2040
In 2050, the challenge is to see the safe use of legal drugs and find ways to reach moderation. The return to sustained economic stability has, as always, decreased the demand for drugs on the whole, but there is always a market, and always someone there to fill it. Strength of the global economy permits the allocation of trillions of dollars to maintain the “war on drugs”, but as history has shown, there are always inherent problems of the illicit trade which may offer protection to some parts of society, while at the same introducing new ones to other groups.