International Drug Policy Q&A

Drug use touches on a multiplicity of volatile topics globally – international law, the environment, science, health, ethics, psychology, sociology – and yet each has both a stake and a contribution to make in preventing drug use and solving addiction. In this section we seek to cross cultural, governmental and disciplinary boundaries to raise awareness about the human rights that are violated by drug use and addiction and the various policies that are implemented worldwide to address these social ills. We also explore the effects of supply and demand that impact the world economy every day. Looking at this issue from an international perspective will improve our knowledge about the realities of drug prevention, addiction and treatment.

  • What is the relationship of drug addiction to human rights?
    • The loss of inhibition characteristic of drug use, by definition, erodes human dignity.
    • Addiction deprives users of the right to life, liberty and security, especially the security of the families and loved ones of the addicted.
    • The right to a reasonable standard of living, health and quality of life is compromised by drug use because of the addictive nature of drugs and the user’s compulsion to attain them regardless of the costs to those around him or her.
    • We have an ethical responsibility not to harm ourselves or others – a right inherently trampled by the physical and mental damages of drug use.
    • The world’s children have the right to be born drug free and to grow up in drug free homes.
    • In the recovery process, drug addicts have the right to the kind of treatment that leads them toward abstinence rather than a continuation of their addiction.
  • What is the relationship of drug addiction to HIV/AIDS?
    • The spread of hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and other blood borne or sexually transmitted diseases has been worsened by drug use – either through injection practices or the risky sexual behavior enabled by the lowering of inhibitions caused by drugs.
    • The best way to prevent the transmission of hepatitis C or HIV through dirty needles is to quit using drugs intravenously.
    • Moving an intravenous drug user through recovery to abstinence is the safest, most humane and most holistic way to reduce the tragedy of disease spread by drug use.
    • Providing places to inject drugs or clean needles ignores the underlying problem of drug use itself that is propelling the AIDS and hepatitis C crisis.
  • What is the relationship of drug addiction to the environment?
    • The demand for illegal drugs has led to dangerous methods of growing raw materials and toxic manufacturing.
    • The destruction of the rainforest is accelerated by the drug trade – in Colombia alone over 3 million acres have been destroyed.
    • The toxic pesticides and other chemicals used in clandestine farming and manufacture expose workers, their families and villages to water and ground pollution from the process.
    • The treasure of our natural wilderness and its wildlife is endangered by the illegal farming conducted by the drug trade in national parks.
  • What is the relationship of drug addiction to international relations?
    • Developed nations have unintentionally pushed drug manufacturing to developing nations, creating an international caste system.
    • The drug cartels exploit developing countries and the limitations of their criminal justice systems for cheap and easy way stations for trafficking.
    • The funding of terrorist groups is partly enabled by the drug trade, and these criminal organizations undermine international attempts at security or peacemaking.
  • What is the relationship of drug addiction to economic systems?
    • The drug problem is estimated to cost over $189 billion yearly to the United States alone in health, crime and productivity losses (and that figure is from 2002).
    • The classic laws of supply and demand don’t completely apply to the drug trade because drugs are addictive – a rise in cost doesn’t necessarily result in a lessening of demand for an addict’s drug of choice.
    • Some of the most powerful illegal drugs originate from farmed crops which exploit impoverished agricultural workers while supplying drug traffickers with immense profits.
    • Funds from the drug trade flood the more impoverished countries, hindering the long term economic development found in legal enterprises that build their economies.
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