War on drugs a global failure: experts
AUSTRALIAN experts have backed a hard-hitting report that argues the global war on drugs has failed and is driving an HIV pandemic among users and their sexual partners.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes leading politicians from around the world and influential figures such as Richard Branson, said that injecting drug use accounts for a third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The report stated: “Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated. Mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic.”
Paul Barratt, chairman of policy think-tank Australia21, said Australia was already a world-leader in combating HIV infection through injection drug use, but he called for adequate needle syringe programs, safer injection facilities, methadone and buprenorphine treatment and heroin assisted treatment on a worldwide basis.
“Australia showed the world that stopping HIV among people who inject drugs was achievable, but this required strong leadership and effective collaboration from governing and opposition politicians. Every Australian has benefited from their courage and commitment,” he said.
Australia21 is hosting a roundtable to discuss drug policy next month and will take in figures from the latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, released today, which states the Australian illicit drug market remains dominated by cannabis, although Australians are using less amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) and more cocaine.
"Cannabis remains the main substance accounting for demand for treatment for substance abuse (50%), with heroin and amphetamines accounting for almost 20% of treatment demand," the report said.
An increase in Oceania cocaine use, from an estimated 1.4–1.7% in 2009 to 1.5–1.9% in 2010, reflected the rise in Australia, whereas cocaine use remained stable in Western and Central Europe.
The UNODC also reported "new synthetic psychoactive substances", chemically engineered to remain outside international control, were being increasingly used.