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.
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:
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
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.
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/