Drug laws

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7317.866/a (Published 13 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:866

War on drugs does more harm than good

  1. Alex Wodak (awodak@stvincents.com.au), director, alcohol and drug service
  1. St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, New South Wales 2010, Australia
  2. Mid West Area Health Service, Alcohol and Other Drug Services, Bloomfield Hospital, Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia

    EDITOR—It is 30 years since the then president of the United States, Richard Nixon, declared a war against drugs. But global drug prohibition had its beginnings as far back as 1909. In 1988 the United States Congress passed legislation requiring that country to become drug free by 1995. This denial of reality is global. In 1998 the international community committed itself at the United Nations to eradicate illicit cultivation of coca plants and opium poppies by 2008. By any measure, this is an international crusade and one that has been expensive, ineffective, and often counterproductive. The dictum “first, do no harm” has not applied to drug policy for the last century.

    It is disappointing that Drummond's comments repeat so many old myths.1 Assumptions are presented as unarguable fact. The claim that heroin is inherently dangerous is false. Heroin is rapidly metabolised to morphine, which is used safely by the healthcare system in large …

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