There can be no doubt that the daft war on drugs is devastating many of the world’s poorest countries, from Africa to Latin America.
But this has been ignored by major charities that claim to campaign for international development, presumably for fear of upsetting their donors.
Now one has broken ranks, with the release of an important report from Christian Aid condemning what it calls “a blind spot in development thinking”.
The group rightly insists that the scale of the problem demands attention, with legal and illegal economies woven together so tightly in many nations after rapid expansion of operations by a rampant drug industry. Although stopping shy of demanding the obvious solution, which is to legalise and regulate all drugs worldwide, the authors say “the current cure is not working... and despite the hundreds of billions spent on eradication, the illicit drugs industry is bigger than ever”.
Christian Aid deserves credit for this report, which caused internal palpitations. It highlights the hypocrisy of successive British governments that pour money into aid yet support the prohibition ripping apart poor communities. One day they will see that sanctimonious talk of saving the world is not a solution to complex problems. Yet the charity’s move is just one more sign of how fast attitudes are shifting on this issue.
The world’s drug warriors face defeat – and they are being beaten back by insurgents in unexpected places, as we saw again last week. In Mexico – a land cursed by drug cartels – the nation’s top judges declared the prevention of cannabis use to be an infringement of human rights. This paves the way for legalisation; four similar rulings will force an official review into a trade that provides perhaps a quarter of the profits for some of the planet’s most-savage gangsters.
Then in Ireland, traditionally seen as a country of social conservatism under the influence of Catholic clerics, ministers are moving towards decriminalisation of all narcotics. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who oversees the country’s drug strategy, revealed there is strong consensus on a “cultural shift” to tackle addiction. First will come plans to establish “shooting galleries”, where heroin users can take their fix using clean needles under medical supervision. This follows nine other Western nations with similar set-ups, which are shown to reduce infection and overdoses.
World's 10 most deadly street drugs
World's 10 most deadly street drugs
1/10 10. Purple Drank
One of the more unusual drugs around at the moment, purple drank was popularised in 90s hip hop culture, with the likes of Jay Z and Big Moe all mentioning it in their songs. It is a concoction of soda water, sweets and cold medicine, and is drunk due to cold medicines high codeine content, which gives the user a woozy feeling. However it can also cause respiratory issues and heart failure
2/10 9. Scopolamine
Scopolamine is a derivative from the nightshade plant found in the Northern Indian region of South America (Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela). It is generally found in a refined powder form, but can also be found as a tea. The drug is more often used by criminals due its high toxicity level (one gram is believed to be able to kill up to 20 people) making it a strong poison. However, it is also believed that the drug is blown into the faces of unexpecting victims, later causing them to lose all sense of self-control and becoming incapable of forming memories during the time they are under the influence of the drug. This tactic has reportedly been used by gangs in Colombia where there have been reports of people using scopolamine as way to convince victims to rob their own homes
3/10 8. Heroin
Founded in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, heroin is one of the world’s oldest drugs. Originally it was prescribed as a strong painkiller used to treat chronic pain and physical trauma. However in 1971 it was made illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Since then it has become one of the most destructive substances in the world, tearing apart communities and destroying families. The side effects of heroin include inflammation of the gums, cold sweats, a weak immune system, muscular weakness and insomnia. It can also damage blood vessels which can later cause gangrene if left untreated
4/10 7. Crack cocaine
Crack cocaine first came about in the 1980’s when cocaine became a widespread commodity within the drug trafficking world. Originally cocaine would have attracted a high price tag due to its rarity and difficulty to produce, but once it became more widespread the price dropped significantly. This resulted in drug dealers forming their cocaine into rock like shapes by using baking soda as a way of distilling the powder down into rock form. People were doing this because it allowed for them to sell cocaine at a lower quantity and to a higher number of people. The side effects of crack cocaine include liver, kidney and lung damage, as well as permanent damage to blood vessels, which can often lead to heart attacks, strokes, and ultimately death
5/10 6. Crystal meth
Not just famous because of a certain Walter H White, but also because it is one of the most destructive drugs in the world. First developed in 1887, it became widely used during the Second World War when both sides would give it to their troops to keep them awake. It is also believed that the Japanese gave it to their Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. After the war crystal meth was prescribed as a diet aid and remained legal until the 1970s. Since then it has fallen into the hands of Mexican gangs and has become a worldwide phenomenon, spreading throughout Europe and Asia. The effects of crystal meth are devastating. In the short-term users will become sleep depraved and anxious, and in the long-term it will cause their flesh to sink, as well as brain damage and damage of the blood vessels
6/10 5. AH-7921
AH-7921 is a synthetic opioid that was previously available to legally purchase online from vendors until it became a Class A in January 2015. The drug is believed to have 80% of the potency of morphine, and became known as the ‘legal heroin’. While there has only been one death related to AH-7921 in the UK, it is believed to be highly dangerous and capable of causing respiratory arrest and gangrene
7/10 4. Flakka
Flakka is a stimulant with a similar chemical make-up to the amphetamine-like drug found in bath salts. While the drug was originally marketed as a legal high alternative to ecstasy, the effects are significantly different. The user will feel an elevated heart rate, enhanced emotions, and, if enough is digested, strong hallucinations. The drug can cause permanent psychological damage due to it affecting the mood regulating neurons that keep the mind’s serotonin and dopamine in check, as well as possibly causing heart failure
8/10 3. Bath salts
Bath salts are a synthetic crystalline drug that is prevalent in the US. While they may sound harmless, they certainly aren’t the sort of salts you drop into a warm bath when having a relaxing night in, they are most similar to mephedrone, and have recently been featured throughout social media due to the ‘zombification’ of its. The name comes from the fact that the drug was originally sold online, and widely disguised as bath salts. The side effects include unusual psychiatric behaviour, psychosis, panic attacks and violent behaviour, as well as the possibility of a heart attack and an elevated body temperature
9/10 2. Whoonga
Whoonga is a combination of antiretroviral drugs, used to treat HIV, and various cutting agents such as detergents and poisons. The drug is widely available in South Africa due to South Africa’s high rate of HIV sufferers, and is believed to be popular due to how cheap it is when compared to prescribed antiretrovirals. The drug is highly addictive and can cause major health issues such as internal bleeding, stomach ulcers and ultimately death
10/10 1. Krokodil
Krokodil is Russia’s secret addiction. It is believed that over one million Russians are addicted to the drug. Users of krokodil are attracted to the drug due to its low price; it is sold at £20 a gram while heroin is sold for £60. However, krokodil is considered more dangerous than heroin because it is often homemade, with ingredients including painkillers, iodine, lighter fluid and industrial cleaning agents. This chemical make-up makes the drug highly dangerous and likely to cause gangrene, and eventually rotting of the flesh
And now Canada has a prime minister whose election-winning platform includes a pledge to legalise cannabis.
“To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalise, regulate and restrict access,” says his party manifesto. The logic is correct – although precisely the same argument applies also to amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin. Yet for all the excitement in Ottawa, the nation will only be following a lead set by Uruguay.
Even in the United States, where a president launched the worldwide war on drugs, there is fast progress as voters force change on their leaders. Ohio may have just said no to cannabis legalisation, but it was stopping monopoly control. A majority nationally back reform – and already recreational cannabis use is allowed in four states and medical use in 21 others. Several more states hold ballots next year, including probably California, while Vermont could soon become the first to legalise weed through legislative process.
Since the US may soon be sandwiched by countries that permit cannabis, such votes are becoming increasingly symbolic. Yet without rehearsing the tired and obvious arguments for legalisation, it is worth pointing out that dire warnings of doom in pioneering Colorado do not seem to have materialised. A recent report by Transform Drug Policy Foundation revealed no spike in cannabis use, a significant reduction in the size of the criminal market, and a predicted $125m (£83m) boost in tax revenues for this year.
Around the world, about 25 countries including Australia, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Switzerland have initiated reform. Even Iran’s theocracy brought in progressive harm-reduction measures and has influential voices calling for cannabis and opium legalisation. Slowly but surely we are seeing the end of stupid policies to prohibit drug use that are not only stunningly illiberal but damage users, families, communities and entire countries.
One country is missing from these moves – although led by a prime minister who once espoused a more-sensible approach. But now David Cameron claims the British stance is working, adds scores more substances to the banned list and rules out even cannabis decriminalisation, despite revelations that the cash-strapped Treasury says it could raise useful sums in tax while cutting costs for police and prisons. Given Britain’s blinkered approach, it is both unsurprising and depressing that last year saw the most deaths from drug poisoning since records begun, with substantial rises in mortality linked to cocaine and heroin.
There are politicians in all parties sensibly pushing reform, now joined by subversive police leaders in three counties who have effectively decriminalised cannabis themselves. How sad that a country for so long a leading player on the international stage, which still claims to be a global force for good, remains stuck in the past on this important issue.
The end of the worldwide drug war is nigh. And, when Britain realises its current approach does more harm than good, it will rejoin the ranks of enlightened nations.Reuse content