Drug policy

Why do we need drug-policy reform?

The currently prevailing policies surrounding drugs are primarily based on criminalization and repression, both of which have shown themselves to be ineffective at achieving their stated goals of reducing the consumption of drugs and the access to them.

In regards to consumption, in the World Drug Report of 2022 it was estimated that in 2020 around 284 million people around the world between the ages of 15 and 64 had used some unregulated substance in the last year, representing an increase of 26% compared with the figure in 2010. Such numbers highlight the ineffectiveness of the current policies in reducing the prevalence of unregulated drugs.

The same report also shows another key aspect that current drug policies ignore: the majority of people who use substances, whether these are regulated or not, do not develop a problematic pattern of use and therefore do not constitute a burden on health resources or public security. In problematic use cases the traditional focus on punitive measures does not treat the problem by the root, and instead simply imposes punishments on the individual, which leads to lasting personal and social problems rather than solving them. Having a criminal record greatly limits opportunities for employment, housing and education and can therefore perpetuate a cycle of crime and increase the likelihood of recidivism. Therefore, it is vital to engage with people with problematic substance-use patterns from a perspective of public health rather than from a perspective of criminalization. This involves providing access to appropriate treatment, harm reduction programs and social support, while promoting inclusion and reducing the stigma associated with addiction and the use of drugs.

The ineffectiveness of drug prohibition is also evidenced by its failure to reduce the supply of drugs. Despite the enormous investment of resources to attempt to eradicate the production and trafficking of drugs, there now exists a much greater variety of drugs that are both cheaper and more readily available than there has ever been in history. In addition to not achieving its objectives, the policy of drug prohibition has led to very serious public health and safety problems, as well as human rights violations. In reality, the so-called `war on drugs’ is a war against people, especially against those who are most disenfranchised and vulnerable in society.  

In fact, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acknowledges a number of `unintended consequences’ in its 2008 World Drug Report, such as the creation of a huge criminal market, the displacement and transit of production to new areas, the diversion of health resources to law enforcement, the emergence of more dangerous drugs to replace the old ones, and the stigmatization and marginalization of the people who consume drugs.

In light of these realities there are now more and more voices that are calling out the systemic failure of the “war on drugs”, which far from protecting public health has resulted in great harm to the people who use drugs (PWUD), their families and society at large. In fact, harm reduction organizations, like needle-exchange programs or drug-checking services sprang up precisely as a response to the harms caused by prohibition.

The failure of the criminal paradigm is evident in every respect, which has led to many countries and regions taking a new approach in recent years, pioneering new alternatives such as the decriminalization of controlled substances or the regulation of cannabis. Regarding cannabis, as of today in the Americas, Uruguay, Canada and over twenty states in the USA have employed regulatory models. Countries like Malta or Germany in the European Union, have also opted for regulation. At the same time many other countries recognize that the current system does not work and, inspired by other successes of regulation in other countries, recognize that change is possible and necessary.

At Kykeon Analytics, we recognize the ineffectiveness of the current paradigm of prohibition and are aware of the need for urgent change both nationally and globally. We therefore join the movement to reform drug policy with a vision of a post-prohibitionist world where substances that are not regulated today are accessed with the same guarantees of safety and health as exist for any other product intended for human consumption, and where drug checking services no longer have a reason to exist and will thus have been made obsolete.

What should reformed drug policies take into account?

At Kykeon Analytics we are committed to drug policy with the following pillars:

  • Human Rights: Drug policy that respects and protects the rights of all people, including the rights of those who consume drugs, and that is in line with the principle of equality, lack of discrimination, the right to privacy, the right to health and access to justice.
  • Scientific Evidence: Like any other public policy, drug policy should be based on scientific evidence instead of ideological prejudices, stereotypes or other unfounded assumptions.
  • Public Health: Persons who develop a problematic pattern of consumption need help and support not be sent to prison. Therefore, policies should prioritize the health and wellbeing of PWUD instead of focusing on their criminalization, repression and punishment.
  • Social Justice: Drug policy should take social inequalities, as well as the negative impact that the war on drugs has had on marginalized communities, into account. Particular attention needs to be paid to the needs of low-income populations, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, as well as all other vulnerable and historically excluded populations.
  • Participation and Empowerment of the Community: Drug policy needs to involve a wide spectrum of voices in its design and implementation, especially those of PWUD. Furthermore, PWUD should be empowered to make informed decisions about drugs and their consumption and be enabled to fully participate in society.
  • Sustainable Development: Drug policies should both encompass the responsible and sustainable use of natural resources, but also promote economic and social development in communities that have traditionally been impacted by the war on drugs.

You want to know more?

Contact us:

Núria Calzada / ncalzada@kykeonanalytics.com 

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