Intended for healthcare professionals


Drug policy debate is needed

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 02 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2381
  1. I T Gilmore, honorary professor of medicine
  1. 1University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK
  1. igilmore{at}

To deal with the public health consequences of the criminalisation of drug use

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the International Opium Convention, the first legal instrument on international drug control. In recent weeks the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs—the policy setting body of the United Nations on drug control matters that is composed of 53 member states—was held in Vienna.1 It adopted 12 resolutions, including ones on the treatment, rehabilitation, and social reintegration of drug dependent prisoners, treatment as an alternative to imprisonment, and the prevention of death from overdose. Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, emphasised the prioritisation of the health agenda, stating: “At present, the balance between our work on the supply and demand sides stays firmly in favour of the supply side. We must restore the balance. Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration, and health have to be recognised as key elements in our strategy.”2

This recent emphasis on health is welcome, because discussions on drug policy are too often dominated by criminal justice arguments and polarised opinions on how to solve the so called war on drugs. Indeed, it is hard to maintain a neutral position on this topic, and any argument in …

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