Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations War on Drugs

Non-violent drug users should face no penalty—a call from the Global Commission on Drug Policy

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 14 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5921
  1. Ruth Dreifuss, chair,
  2. Pavel Bém, member
  1. Global Commission on Drug Policy, PO Box 136, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland
  1. secretariat{at}

We urgently need pragmatic reform to develop effective and humane drug policies, including regulated drug markets, because prohibition has failed, write Ruth Dreifuss and Pavel Bém

The failures of prohibition—the attempt to eliminate illicit drugs for non-medical purposes through measures such as criminalisation or militarisation—and other repressive drug strategies are well documented. Over the past 50 years, they have been unable to curb either supply or demand at global or local levels. In fact, drug use, production, and trafficking, and concern about the issue among the general public, grow ever higher,1 while prohibition continues to exact a tragic toll on individuals and societies.2 Effective and humane drug policies are needed more urgently than ever.

This urgency can be felt both at the local level, where cities struggle to cope with drug use directly, and at the international level, with growing criticism of an outdated drug control system built on …

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