Global war on drugs
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

It is not only in the Philippines but worldwide there is a “war on drugs” which was launched a decade ago and coordinated by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Last year, 2018, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) report highlights drug use has not disappeared but instead has risen by 31 percent between 2011 and 2016. Illegal drug demand (IDPC) came out with the most comprehensive report – 183 pages – I have read on the global war on drugs. It reviewed the decades old “war” and arrived at the conclusion that it was a failure.

It has been estimated that globally more than $100 billion a year is spent waging this war with over $40 billion of that spent in the United States. Helen Clark, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, writes: “As the (IDPC) report highlights, drug use has not disappeared but instead have expanded relentlessly to meet this growing demand, with opium and coca production rising respectively by 130 percent and 34 percent between 2009 and 2018.

Beneath this shocking failure of the 10-year strategy to meet its eradication goals, the late Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary General and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy: ‘I believe that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more.”

The report states that incarceration has resulted in more than two million prisoners in drug related offenses and thousands have been killed extra judicially in drug war operations worldwide. Drug market related violence has spiralled to unprecedented levels. The sad news is that all these incarceration and killings have resulted in empowering and enriching organized crime groups.

In her foreword to the IDPC report, Clark wrote:

“Global drug control policies have been based on the general principles of eliminating production, trade or use of any illegal psychoactive substance from the world. Yet policies which seeks to reach that objective have involved harsh law enforcement and even militarisation. These end up affecting the most vulnerable people who use drugs, subsistence farmers involved in illegal crop cultivation and small scale traffickers because they are easier to apprehend than are wealthy and well connected people. The collateral damages are human rights and lives – those of the most vulnerable and those of the voiceless. 

A decade ago, the international community reiterated its aspiration to achieve a drug free world. Yet over the decade, available data show that the production, sale and consumption of currently illegal drugs are soaring. So are the harms related to current policies with dramatic increases in overdoses, prison overcrowding, HIV and hepatitis transmission, a more revenue generating and increasingly violent illegal market, extrajudicial killings against people who use drugs-killings that often take place in broad daylight.”

One other aspect that has made the global war on drugs more difficult is that the market for synthetic drugs, referred to in UN conventions as “psychotropic substances, has become more complex and diversified and shows no sign of disappearing. Contrary to conventional belief, cocaine is one of the least used drugs. Here is a rough global estimate.

• Total number who use drugs 204-346M

• People who inject drugs – 10.6M

• Problem drug users – 30-44M

• People using cannabis – 165-234M

• People using opiods – 24-34M

• People using ecstacy – 26M

• People using cocaine – 18.2M

• People using opiates – 19.4M

•People using amphetamines       34.2M 

The global war on drugs set as its objectives the elimination or significant reduction of the following:

• Illicit cultivation of opium poppy, coco bush and cannabis

• Illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropics substances; and drug related health and social risks; illicit production, manufacture, marketing and distribution of, and trafficking in psychotropic drugs including synthetic drugs

• Diversion of and illicit trafficking in precursors i.e. chemical substances in narcotic drugs during manufacturing

• Money laundering related to illicit drugs.

The IDPC paper has several recommended action plans. The emphasis is on reducing supply at the source or the countries growing the plants. There are action plans for drug users which are too many to discuss in this column. The paper, for example, proposes within the legal frameworks, “the full implementation of drug dependence treatment and care options for offenders in particular when appropriate providing treatment as an alternative to incarceration.”

There also is a proposal for anti-drug campaign targeted at the youth with case studies. There is a list of 15 interventions for prisons. The list includes information, education and communication; prevention of sexual violence; prevention of transmission through tattooing, piercing and other skin penetration; drug dependence treatment; and other interventions. 

One critical area for reducing drug trafficking is recommended: “Establishing new or strengthening existing domestic legislative framework to criminalize the laundering of money derived from drug trafficking.”

The last part of the report is for those government agencies and NGOs involved in the drug wars: “Identifying new indicators for measuring the success of drug policy: How to leverage the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The nations involved in global war on drugs should avoid repeating the past mistakes and support reforms that provide a pragmatic, meaningful and effective response to the presence of drugs in society. 

Creative writing classes for young writers 

Young Writers’ Hangout on Nov. 23 with Tarie Sabido (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone session) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email

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