Who are drug users hurt

The fight against drugs violates human rights

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The prosecution of drug-related crime has also created new problems. The international drug trade promotes corruption and violence, extortion and murder. Tens of thousands of people have already died as a result. Since the government decided in 2006 to send military units to the war on drugs, the number of homicides in Mexico, for example, has risen so sharply that life expectancy in the country has fallen.

The relentless fight against illegal drugs also violates human rights. Some drug users are arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily; in some countries they face the death penalty, they are denied vital medical care, and entire ethnic groups are discriminated against. For example, in the United States and Great Britain, where darker skinned people are much more likely to be screened for drug possession, significantly more blacks than whites are convicted of drug use and minor drug offenses. In prisons in some Asian countries, drug offenders are beaten and tortured in order to obtain information about dealers, growers and couriers.

New principles for a modern drug policy

For these reasons the voices calling for a rethink in international drug policy have been louder for years. Non-governmental organizations such as the Global Commission on Drug Policy advocate this. Its members include the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former state presidents. They promote government regulated drug markets and legalization of most psychoactive substances. Most recently, leading health experts at Johns Hopkins University have called for the drug problem to be resolved only if governments put more emphasis on educating people than criminalizing them. Those who use drugs should be helped to structure their consumption in such a way that they cause the least possible harm. In addition, by far not everyone who takes drugs is dependent: Only eleven percent of all people who consume alcohol, tobacco or prohibited things get serious health problems such as addiction. 89 percent are doing well in everyday life (Beyrer et al., The Lancet, 2016).

You can find all articles on drugs here in the dossier "How dangerous is intoxication?". ZEIT ONLINE has also published five principles on which drug policy could be oriented. D.You can discuss the proposals here or on Twitter under #KlugeDrogenpolitik.

In addition, ZEIT ONLINE has been surveying for three years as part of the Global Drug Surveys Readers About Their Drug Use. The results of the world's largest drug survey - the ZEIT-ONLINE drug report 2016 - read here as a map story: