New report: The war on drugs is harming, not protecting, children and young people

Seven Ways the War on Drugs Hurts and Kills Children launched on UN Universal Children’s Day

A new report demonstrating the harms caused to young people by the global drug war will be released on Friday 20 November, United Nations Universal Children’s Day, by the ‘Count the Costs of the War on Drugs’ initiative. ‘The War on Drugs: Harming not protecting young people’ will be launched at the Drug Policy Alliance Conference in Washington DC.

Politicians claim those who use or supply drugs must be arrested, criminalised, imprisoned or even executed to keep society’s youth safe. But as this new report shows, this approach has been tried for more than half a century – and the evidence is clear: any marginal benefits are dramatically outweighed by the costs.

Using evidence collected from Mexico to the UK, and Afghanistan to the US, this groundbreaking report shows that children are being hurt and killed worldwide because the Drug War:


  1. Threatens children’s health by increasing drug dangers

  2. Puts children in the line of fire by creating violent drug gangs

  3. Leads to the trafficking and enslavement of children

  4. Ruins young people’s lives with criminal records

  5. Destroys children’s families by locking up parents

  6. Makes youngsters who take drugs scared to seek help

  7. Prevents effective drug education, putting all children at risk

A Count the Costs spokesperson said: “The global drug war has been fought for decades on the basis that it protects young people. This new report demonstrates that, in fact, it harms and kills them. Criminalisation doesn’t stop young people taking drugs, but it does dramatically increase the risks for those who do. And it produces many other disastrous and entirely avoidable harms for those that don’t use drugs too. A historic UN meeting on drugs takes place next April; it is vital that it’s slogan – ‘A better tomorrow for today’s youth’ –  does not end up being empty rhetoric intended to preserve the status quo. Because however well-meant, the war on drugs is, in reality, a war on young people. And it must end now.”

The War on Drugs: Harming, not protecting, young people (PDF)