The World Health Organization and the United Nations have called for drugs to be decriminalized, the war on drugs put to end, and a shift to a “prevention and treatment” way of addressing the problem.
So we’ve known that the war on drugs flat out doesn’t work. And it’s pretty easy to sum up why. First: People. Like. Drugs. If you take the drugs away they won’t stop using, they’ll just turn around and pay shady dudes in shady alleys to get them. Drugs are also closely associated with crime in the public mind, but that’s because of and due to the war on drugs, not despite it — if there are no legitimate way to supply demand, black markets will pop up to fill it. Lastly, use of illegal drugs often leads to a lot of medical complications and deaths, but again, that’s mostly because of the war on drugs — shady dealers don’t have to worry about health standards so they can mix anything in, and users aren’t the most likely to go to the ER when something goes south since they fear legal repercussions.
It goes on like this. I’m not saying drugs aren’t a problem in and of themselves — but many of the issues they’re blamed for are caused by our reaction to the drugs. For a long time, and despite scientists pointing out to the fact that prohibition flat out doesn’t work, it seemed that politics was too well entrenched in the war on drugs for things to change.
But last month, on the International Day Against Drug Abuse, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for tackling the problem through “prevention and treatment” and by adhering to human rights. As part of a joint release describing how the two bodies say member states should go about ending healthcare discrimination, they’ve called for the “reviewing and repealing punitive laws that have been proven to have negative health outcomes,” including “drug use or possession of drugs for personal use”.