I have been engaged in drug reform policy for some time. This means following whatever latest science is published, or at least trying to. Ofc, since i dont have time to follow the all the relevant journals, what i can do is read the review reports and papers published. I have read two of such recently.

 

http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/

This one is about the effects of The war on drugs on HIV thruout the world. With the conclusion being that it is very bad:

 

Summary is:

The global war on drugs is driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic

among people who use drugs and their sexual partners.

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown

that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug

users away from public health services and into hidden

environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated.

Mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders also

plays a major role in increasing HIV risk. This is a critical

public health issue in many countries, including the United

States, where as many as 25 percent of Americans infected

with HIV may pass through correctional facilities annually,

and where disproportionate incarceration rates are among

the key reasons for markedly higher HIV rates among

African Americans.

Aggressive law enforcement practices targeting drug

users have also been proven to create barriers to HIV

treatment. Despite the evidence that treatment of HIV

infection dramatically reduces the risk of HIV transmission

by infected individuals, the public health implications of

HIV treatment disruptions resulting from drug law

enforcement tactics have not been appropriately re-

cognized as a major impediment to efforts to control

the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The war on drugs has also led to a policy distortion

whereby evidence-based addiction treatment and public

health measures have been downplayed or ignored. While

this is a common problem internationally, a number of

specific countries, including the US, Russia and Thailand,

ignore scientific evidence and World Health Organization

recommendations and resist the implementation of

evidence-based HIV prevention programs – with devastat-

ing consequences. In Russia, for example, approximately

one in one hundred adults is now infected with HIV.

In contrast, countries that have adopted evidence-based

addiction treatment and public health measures have seen

their HIV epidemics among people who use drugs – as well

as rates of injecting drug use – dramatically decline. Clear

consensus guidelines exist for achieving this success, but

HIV prevention tools have been under-utilized while harmful

drug war policies have been slow to change.

This may be a result of the mistaken assumption that drug

seizures, arrests, criminal convictions and other commonly

reported indices of drug law enforcement “success” have

been effective overall in reducing illegal drug availability.

However, data from the United Nations Office on Drugs

and Crime demonstrate that the worldwide supply of illicit

opiates, such as heroin, has increased by more than

380 percent in recent decades, from 1000 metric tons in

1980 to more than 4800 metric tons in 2010. This increase

coincided with a 79 percent decrease in the price of heroin

in Europe between 1990 and 2009.

Similar evidence of the drug war’s failure to control drug

supply is apparent when US drug surveillance data are

scrutinized. For instance, despite a greater than 600 percent

increase in the US federal anti-drug budget since the early

1980s, the price of heroin in the US has decreased by

approximately 80 percent during this period, and heroin

purity has increased by more than 900 percent. A similar

pattern of falling drug prices and increasing drug potency is

seen in US drug surveillance data for other commonly used

drugs, including cocaine and cannabis.

As was the case with the US prohibition of alcohol in

the 1920s, the global prohibition of drugs now fuels

drug market violence around the world. For instance,

it is estimated that more than 50,000 individuals have

been killed since a 2006 military escalation against drug

cartels by Mexican government forces. While supporters

of aggressive drug law enforcement strategies might

assume that this degree of bloodshed would disrupt the

drug market’s ability to produce and distribute illegal drugs,

recent estimates suggest that Mexican heroin production

has increased by more than 340 percent since 2004.

With the HIV epidemic growing in regions and countries

where it is largely driven by injection drug use, and with

recent evidence that infections related to injection drug use

are now increasing in other regions, including sub-Saharan

Africa, the time for leadership is now. Unfortunately,

national and United Nations public health agencies have

been sidelined. While the war on drugs has been fueling

the HIV epidemic in many regions, other law enforcement

bodies and UN agencies have been actively pursuing an

aggressive drug law enforcement agenda at the expense

of public health. Any sober assessment of the impacts

of the war on drugs would conclude that many national

and international organizations tasked with reducing the

drug problem have actually contributed to a worsening of

community health and safety. This must change.

 

http://www.release.org.uk/publications/drug-decriminalisation-policies-in-practice-across-the-globe

 

This one is about the effect of drug legislation on drug use. Critics of reform often claim that if it was legal to do drugs, or perhaps just not criminal, then people wud take lots of drugs. This is not true the report concludes:

 

The proliferation of decriminalisation policies around the world

demonstrates that decriminalisation is a viable and successful

policy option for many countries. Decriminalisation has not been

the disaster many predicted and continue to predict. As evidenced

in this report, a country’s drug-enforcement policies appear to have

little correlation with levels of drug use and misuse in that country.

Countries with some of the harshest criminalisation systems have

some of the highest prevalence of drug use in the world, and countries

with decriminalisation systems have some of the lowest prevalence,

and vice versa. But this does not end the discussion. More research is

needed; governments and academics must invest more in researching

which policy models are the most effective in reducing drug harms and

achieving just and healthy policy outcomes. More and better data will

bolster the existing research and provide a sound foundation on which

to build and design drug policies of the future.

 

This is pretty similar to what David Nutt argued on his blog: http://profdavidnutt.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/hypothesising-an-alternative-applying-the-scientific-process-to-drug-policy/

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