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.”

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