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The War on Drugs: Count the Costs and Explore the Alternatives

The global 'war on drugs' has been fought for 50 years, without preventing the long-term trend of increasing drug supply and use. Beyond this failure, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has also identified the many serious 'unintended negative consequences' of the drug war. These costs result not from drug use itself, but from choosing a punitive enforcement-led approach that, by its nature, places control of the trade in the hands of organised crime, and criminalises many users. In the process this:

  • undermines international development and security, and fuels conflict
  • threatens public health, spreads disease and causes death
  • undermines human rights
  • promotes stigma and discrimination
  • creates crime and enriches criminals
  • causes deforestation and pollution
  • wastes billions on ineffective law enforcement

The 'war on drugs' is a policy choice. There are other options that, at the very least, should be debated and explored using the best possible evidence and analysis.

We all share the same goals – a safer, healthier and more just world. 

Therefore, we the undersigned, call upon world leaders and UN agencies to quantify the unintended negative consequences of the current approach to drugs, and assess the potential costs and benefits of alternative approaches.

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