This, according to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal, for the uninitiated). I figured this deserved its own thread as we've only discussed the issue in passing in other threads.
Three United Nations treaties, the oldest from 1961, seek to “advance the health and welfare of mankind” by prohibiting the non-medical use of some drugs. To this end, countries criminalise producers, traffickers, dealers, and users at an annual cost of at least $100bn.7But the effectiveness of prohibition laws, colloquially known as the “war on drugs,” must be judged on outcomes. And too often the war on drugs plays out as a war on the millions of people who use drugs, and disproportionately on people who are poor or from ethnic minorities and on women.1
Prohibition and stigma encourage less safe drug consumption and push people away from health services.1Sharing of injection equipment has led to huge epidemics of bloodborne infection, including HIV and hepatitis C.1 And just one in every six of the 29 million people worldwide with a drug use disorder received treatment in 2014.3
The ideological goal of a “drug-free world” encourages ideologically driven medical practice. For example, patients in Crimea died after the Russian invasion because they were forced to stop taking methadone, which is viewed as opioid misuse and illegal in Russia.8 The UK government’s promotion of abstinence at the expense of proved maintenance treatment may have contributed to a doubling in opioid related deaths between 2012 and 2015.9
Drug control policies effectively deny two thirds of the world’s population—more than five billion people—legitimate access to opioids for pain control.10 And they impede research into medical use of cannabis and other prohibited drugs despite evidence of potential benefit.11
All wars cause human rights violations, and the war on drugs is no different. Criminally controlled drug supply markets lead to appalling violence—causing an estimated 65 000-80 000 deaths in Mexico in the past decade, for example.12 Mandatory sentencing for even minor drug offences has helped the United States attain the highest rate of incarceration in the world.13 The Philippines has seen 5000 extrajudicial killings since July, after President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for vigilantism against drug dealers.14
It is no surprise, then, that there have been calls for reform, including from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the UN Development Programme, and the UN human rights agency,15 as well as non-governmental organisations,16 former heads of state,10 UK parliamentarians,17 some law enforcers, and medical journals.
At a UN general assembly in April, many countries asked for health and human rights to be prioritised over punitive responses.
I agree fully with ending the failed "war on drugs". It's time to get rid of this counterproductive policy which has caused many to die and governments to erode civil rights across the board. Everywhere prohibition has been tried it has failed. Everywhere decriminalization has been tried it has largely succeeded. The facts are clear. It's not even close. But overcoming inertia and outright resistance of old dogma's and perverse incentives (police jobs, civil forfeitures) is going to be difficult. Unlike the "war on drugs", the war to end the war on drugs is going to take facts, figures, science, decency, good sense, and humanity.This year a thorough review of the international evidence concluded that governments should decriminalise minor drug offences, strengthen health and social sector approaches, move cautiously towards regulated drug markets where possible, and scientifically evaluate the outcomes to build pragmatic and rational policy.1Prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco provide lessons to inform models of regulation.18 Different drugs with different harms in different contexts may need different approaches. And any change must be supported by investment in evidence based education, counselling, and treatment services to deter drug use and increase safety among users.
Health should be at the centre of this debate and so, therefore, should healthcare professionals. Doctors are trusted and influential and can bring a rational and humane dimension to ideology and populist rhetoric about being tough on crime.