November 22, 2016

British Medical Journal calls drug war a failure

Activist Post - The war on drugs has failed,” the editors of the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal declared this week, arguing that doctors should lead the global effort to reform drug policy.

Fiona Godlee, the journal’s editor-in-chief, and Richard Hurley, its features and debates editor, penned an analysis citing academic and scientific reports to argue global policies on drug use — including the United Nations’ — have fallen drastically short.

Godlee and Hurley note the annual cost of prohibition, which entails criminalizing “producers, traffickers, dealers, and users,” totals at least $100 billion annually.

“But the effectiveness of prohibition laws, colloquially known as the ‘war on drugs,’ must be judged on outcomes,” they write. “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.”

Citing an academic study on international drug policy from the Lancet medical journal, the authors argue that “prohibition and stigma encourage less safe drug consumption and push people away from health services.”

Further, though opioid addiction is a growing epidemic, “drug control policies effectively deny two-thirds of the world’s population—more than five billion people—legitimate access to opioids for pain control.”

Another problem  with prohibition policies, they argue, is that “they impede research into medical use of cannabis and other prohibited drugs despite evidence of potential benefit.”

Guardian - The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s annual report recommended that countries should end civil and criminal penalties for drug use and possession in a report that follows the commission’s sharp criticism of the UN’s lackluster effort to combat drug abuse. Commission member Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group, called the UN’s latest meeting on drug policy “fatally flawed” in April. The former Swiss president and chair of the commission, Ruth Dreifuss, told the Guardian: “Politicians should show and prove to the people that what they are doing is to save the lives of these people and bring them to the health services they need to avoid overdoses and to create a climate so when these people are in need, they are able to find help.”

PS: The Review has opposed the war on drugs since it started in the 1970s. 

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