Canada must embrace a public health approach to drug addiction rather than treating it as a criminal justice issue in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, says a Canadian adviser for a new global report. The report, The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS - How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic, released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, condemned the worldwide war on drugs as a "remarkable failure" and claimed it is driving the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users and their sexual partners.
Several top public health officials are proposing a rethinking of current illegal-drug policies they assert spurs on a global problem involving ecstasy, one that even the White House says is made in Canada, specifically B.C. But the suggestion for dialogue about a careful, science-based crafting of new health-oriented regulations comes at the same time the federal government has taken the polar opposite course with its omnibus crime bill. In mid-March, the class of drugs that includes the substance MDMA — considered the pure and original form of ecstasy — was bumped up to a Schedule I drug under Bill C-10, giving it heightened status alongside heroin and cocaine.
For the past 10 to 20 years, drug consumption rooms (DCRs) have become an integrated part of the drug treatment and harm reduction strategy in a variety of countries in Western Europe, North America and Australia. However, they have not yet been established in the majority of countries worldwide.
In the year 2000, as the president of Poland, I signed one of Europe’s most conservative laws on drug possession. Any amount of illicit substances a person possessed meant they were eligible for up to three years in prison. Our hope was that this would help to liberate Poland, and especially its youths, from drugs that not only have a potential to ruin the lives of the people who abuse them but also have been propelling the spread of HIV among people who inject them. We were mistaken on both of our assumptions.
An alliance of influential charities has condemned a key government drugs strategy document, calling it an "ideological attack" on proven addiction treatments and "dangerously and deeply flawed". It warns that ministers will be putting lives at risk if proposed plans to push through "abstinence-based" approaches go ahead.
The prescription of substitution drugs, such as methadone and buprenorphine, has become a mainstream, first-line treatment for opioid dependence, with around 700 000 of Europe’s 1.3 million problem opioid users receiving substitution treatment today. But a small minority of entrenched opioid users repeatedly fails to respond to interventions of this kind. Findings from international trials now suggest that the supervised use of medicinal heroin can be an effective second-line treatment for this small, and previously unresponsive, group. In this latest EMCDDA Insights report, experts describe the development as ‘an important clinical step forward’.
Evan Wood, Moira McKinnon, Robert Strang, Perry R. Kendall
28 March 2012
The use of illegal drugs remains a serious threat to community health. However, despite the substantial social costs attributable to illegal drugs, a well-described discordance between scientific evidence and policy exists in this area, such that most resources go to drug law enforcement activities that have not been well evaluated. When the Office of the Auditor General of Canada last reviewed the country’s drug strategy, in 2001, it estimated that of the $454 million spent annually on efforts to control illicit drugs, $426 million (93.8%) was devoted to law enforcement.
President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador denied that his government had rewarded his country's two largest street gangs for striking a truce credited with a dramatic drop in the staggering national homicide rate. Funes said his administration had not negotiated with the gangsters. He did say that the government responded to news of the truce by transferring 30 gang leaders to lower-security jails so they could order their underlings to stop attacking each other.
This note provides an overview of human rights and international law concerns raised by the 2011 Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board. These include questionable legal reasoning by the Board; the absence of broader human rights norms; problematic statements on specific issues; unqualified comments and support for policies despite human rights risks; and stigmatising language unbecoming a UN entity. These are patterns that are evident in previous Annual Reports.
An approach known as drug-market intervention (DMI) was first used in High Point, North Carolina, in 2004 and since then has been tried in more than 30 cities and counties. It is the brainchild of David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College in New York, who thinks that “the most troubled communities can survive the public-health and family issues that come with even the highest levels of addiction. They can’t survive the community impact that comes with overt drug markets”—by which he means markets that draw outsiders to the neighbourhood. Once these are entrenched, a range of problems follow: not just drug use and sales, but open prostitution, muggings, robberies, declining property values, and the loss of businesses and safe public spaces.
The Russian government’s anti-drugs agency has ordered the blocking of the website of a public health organization, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, for discussing the addiction medicine methadone, human rights groups said today. The move is an assault on freedom of expression in the midst of pro-democracy protests, the groups said.
The Platzspitz or “Needle Park” in Zürich was one of the world’s most notorious open drug scenes, attracting users from all over Europe. After its closure, a new drugs policy was introduced in Switzerland to better protect drug addicts. Dr André Seidenberg was a pioneer of this approach. Swiss TV took him back to the Needle Park, along with a heroin addict who was heavily involved in the scene at that time. (See also: Ten years of heroin handouts fixes drug crime, Swissinfo, January 24, 2004)
The loudest voices in US drug policy debates call either for enforcing prohibition with ever-increasing ferocity or for giving up altogether by letting corporations legally sell the currently illicit drugs much as they do tobacco and alcohol. But as our colleagues and we detail this week in the Lancet, there is an alternative: adopting drug policies with scientific evidence of effectiveness. Regardless of what goals for drug policy emerge from the democratic process, everyone wants the policies implemented in the service of those goals to be effective.
Neuropathic pain affects between 5% and 10% of the US population and can be refractory to treatment. Opioids may be recommended as a second-line pharmacotherapy but have risks including overdose and death. Cannabis has been shown to be effective for treating nerve pain without the risk of fatal poisoning. The author suggests that physicians who treat neuropathic pain with opioids should evaluate their patients for a trial of cannabis and prescribe it when appropriate prior to using opioids. This harm reduction strategy may reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with prescription pain medications.
The Global State of Harm Reduction e-tool is an online resource containing up-to-date information on harm reduction policy and programming around the world. The web pages draw on the latest research in this area to present an at-a-glance guide to the current state of harm reduction worldwide.
Fifty years after signing the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and 40 years after the U.S. government declared a "war on drugs," many obstacles remain despite the partial successes of efforts to counter the problem. The Andean-United States Dialogue Forum, noted with concern how drug policy has monopolized the diplomatic and economic agenda between the Andean countries, contributing to tensions among the governments and impeding cooperation on other crucial priorities, such as safeguarding democratic processes from criminal networks.
Rafael Lemaitre (Communications director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy)
02 December 2011
The complexity and scale of our drug problem requires a nationwide effort to support smart drug policies that reduce drug use and its consequences. The Obama Administration has been engaged in a government-wide effort to reform our nation's drug policies and restore balance to the way we deal with the drug problem. We have pursued a variety of alternatives that abandon an unproductive enforcement-only "War on Drugs" approach to drug control and acknowledge we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem and, further, that drug addiction is a disease of the brain, not some "moral failing."
Media reports of two deaths at the weekend in the same party venue have once again been accompanied by police suggestions that the drug responsible is ecstasy that may be from a "contaminated" batch. Speculation as to the cause of these tragic deaths is unhelpful, and recent experience with mephedrone has shown such preliminary comments are often quite wrong, we will know the truth only when toxicology results are reported.
Problematic use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) has become a significant health and social problem in East and Southeast Asia, in particular the use of methamphetamine, the most potent amphetamine derivative and most widely used substance in the region, known as yaba or yama.