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A discussion of different points of view on drug enforcement

Its goal—a world free of illicit use of drugs—has proven elusive: Despite billions of dollars spent, illicit drug use is up and illicit drugs today are cheaper and more accessible than ever before. Moreover, the War on Drugs has had disastrous unintended consequences, fueling the spread of violence, human rights abuses and infectious disease in much of the world.

In the run-up, Human Rights Watch will be publishing a series of articles that will highlight the consequences for respect and protection of human rights of the War on Drugs. On opposite sides of this debate are countries like Uruguay — open to legalization and regulation of marijuana — and Russia, which opposes even references to a previously agreed — and spectacularly missed — global goal to reduce drug-related HIV transmission.

What does more harm — drugs themselves or the response to them? In the run-up to the April meeting, Human Rights Watch will publish a series of articles examining the range of serious human rights abuses — from torture and killings in the name of drug control to disproportionate and arbitrary imprisonment of drug users to denying cancer patients access to morphine for pain — the War on Drugs has caused.

Unfortunately, the document the UN General Assembly approved on Tuesday does not represent a real break with the past but rather business-as-usual, with some shifts in emphasis. The increased focus on health and human rights in the document is welcome, but as long as the dominantly courts-and-cops approach to fighting drugs continues, the toll from the fight will far outweigh the damage from the drugs themselves.

There is little doubt that tens of thousands of people will continue to suffer from drug-related violence and human rights abuses in the coming years; that drug users and those involved in minor trafficking will continue to fill our jails; and that HIV and hepatitis C will continue to wreak havoc among people who inject drugs. The glass-half-full view is seeing the summit as a key step in the long, complicated process of changing the way the world sees drugs. Importantly, the once-unshakable global consensus on the War on Drugs has been shattered.

Much to the chagrin of countries that sought to protect the status quo, led by Russia, a critical mass of reform-minded countries powerfully challenged long-standing orthodoxies on drugs and forced open a debate that had been notoriously insular.

Decriminalization of personal use and possession — the key to ending widespread abuses against drug users — is now a mainstream issue.

  1. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 19 2 , 287, 1993. The myth of the golden age of aboriginal drug use, in contrast to the degraded forms of modernity, fits within an archetypal line of cultural criticism in Western thought, but often does not comfortably fit reality.
  2. Medical profession Key issues in hypothetical alternative debate.
  3. Ethical issues of drug use in sport. Nelkin cites a United States National Cancer Institute survey which found that the magazines, newspapers and television provided people respectively with 63.
  4. Drug testing provides a symbolic guarantee of purity. The contrary argument that marijuana use should be decriminalised or legalised is that these alleged hazards are exaggerated or nonexistent and that the illegality of marijuana is a greater social hazard, leading to the criminalisation of individual users who have caused no harm to others and to the involvement of organised crime [56-59].

Discussion of the benefits and risks of legalization and regulation of marijuana, unimaginable just a few short years ago, is now firmly part of the debate. While falling far short of what was needed, the summit did unleash winds of change that are gathering force. So what happens next? In all likelihood, we will see a further fracturing of the approach to drugs around the world.

Some countries will continue down the path of reform — legalizing medical cannabis, decriminalizing drug use, and favoring effective health over criminal justice interventions — while others will double down on harsh law enforcement approaches.

But ultimately the reformers are likely to have the advantage. Their approach is based in science rather than ideology, and the evidence suggests strongly that they will attain the better public health outcomes. In 2019, the current global drug strategy will expire. The key question is how many countries will by then be willing to follow the evidence even if it necessitates politically inconvenient steps.

The human rights of tens of thousands of people depend on the answer.

April 21, 2016 7: Drug users are stigmatized and jailed frequently for possession of very small amounts of drugs. The hardnosed approach by police prompts drug users in Russia to avoid health services for fear of arrest and harassment.

Only a few Russian regions offer state-provided rehabilitation treatment. As a result, treatment is often left in the hands of private companies or organizations.

The government has a duty to regulate these privately-owned facilities to ensure they do not endanger or abuse patients. The Russian government has failed to do this — with predictable consequences. Over the last few years, there have been numerous reports of abuse in these facilities: People are sedated, taken from their homes by force to remote facilities, usually in the countryside, and forced to stay there for months, often without their consent which family members give for them instead.

Other methods include d physical violence, electroshock, verbal abuse and public humiliation. To its credit, the government has prosecuted some of the worst cases.

Rethinking the War on Drugs

But most cases of abuse likely never come to light. The government should take immediate steps to adequately regulate private rehabilitation facilities.

  1. This majority is opposed by a residual minority who remain loyal to a belief in talking therapies and experiential causes for mental illness. The first relates to feelings of empathy and responsibility amongst relatives of mental patients.
  2. Hemp can also be used as a fast-growing source of energy, engine fuel, a very hard-wearing fabric, and a food hemp seeds can be compared to soybeans , among other uses. The Russian government has failed to do this — with predictable consequences.
  3. In the run-up, Human Rights Watch will be publishing a series of articles that will highlight the consequences for respect and protection of human rights of the War on Drugs. The discussion of trafficking and distribution mentions another problem for the international control machinery.

If they engage in kidnappings and abuse, they should be shut down. The government should also ensure people with drug dependence have access to a range of treatments - including drug substitution — that are based on evidence. Only then, will Russia be able to start to address the problem of drug dependence.

Doctors must write prescriptions on special forms, which can only be obtained from a single office in Guatemala City, 25 at a time, and each prescription must be approved by the Ministry of Health. Only then can they go to a pharmacy to fill it. For many patients and their families this is impossible.

As a result, we estimate, many thousands of Guatemalans suffer severe, untreated pain in the last months of their lives. Besides the senseless suffering, the excessive bureaucratic requirements pose an acute ethical dilemma for physicians and pharmacists: They are obligated to offer proper care to patients but many feel they cannot do so without stretching — or outright breaking — the law, and exposing themselves to possible disciplinary or even criminal penalties.

We documented examples of health care workers putting themselves at serious legal risk out of a feeling of obligation to their patients. No health care worker should have to risk jail time to prescribe essential medications. No patient should have to suffer needlessly because regulations make it impossible to get necessary medications. It is high time for Guatemala to change its drug control regulations. April 20, 2016 10: Mickdad had just visited an organization providing clean needles and syringes to people who use drugs in an effort to address sky-high HIV prevalence among that group.

To the police officer, however, the fact that the government supported this needle and syringe program was of little consequence. A syringe sucks up a mixture of heroin and water prepared on a foil wrap as addicts shoot up in Stone Town Zanzibar, December 22, 2009.

The government has taken steps to address this problem. Tanzania is only the second African country to provide opiate substitution treatment, the most effective form of drug treatment for opioid dependence, and its authorization of needle and syringe programs sets it apart from many of its neighbors.

But the fact that drug use is punishable in Tanzania by up to 10 years in prison undermines these efforts. While prosecutions do occur, many drug users told us that more frequently, police — or members of semi-official vigilante groups — simply rough them up, extort them for every shilling they can get, and release them.