Chris Van Es

The Fatal Myth of a Drug-Free World

Last week's United Nations High Level Summit on Drugs produced a watered-down political declaration that fails to acknowledge crucial lessons learned over the past decade. Unless the futile policies of the past, aimed at the unattainable goal of a "drug-free world," change quickly, millions of people will continue to suffer and die.

VIENNA – Negotiations at the United Nations High Level Summit on drugs in Vienna last week fell flat. Although 25 countries officially stated their support for proven methods such as needle exchange and overdose prevention, the summit’s outcome was a watered-down political declaration that fails to acknowledge crucial lessons that have been learned over the last decade.

The refusal to include the words “harm reduction” seems motivated by ideology rather than science, despite clear evidence showing that needle exchange and substitution treatment keep drug users alive and free of deadly infections.

Those advocating for harm reduction accept that drugs have always been a part of human history and aim to decrease the damage caused by their production and use. A vocal few disagree with this approach, labeling it, in the Vatican’s words, “anti-life.”

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.