Evidence-based drug policy simply refers to the use of evidence (data, proofs) to guide our response to drug control. It is simply ensuring that current best evidence is being used in making decisions. This means the quality of our outcome will improve or become better if our response is influenced by science, data or evidence. This also means that for us to use current best evidence, we have to be ready to systematically evaluate our laws, policies and practices to determine whether they are actually fit for purpose.
If we take a look at drug laws and policies that exist today, we will realize that most of them were developed based on opinions, sentiments and not really by critically examining what the situation was, what they intend to achieve and how best to achieve them. For example, in West Africa, Nigeria inclusive, most of the drug laws are reactive. They were developed just to respond to the outcry against drug trafficking and illicit drugs transiting through the region to the thriving markets in North America and Europe. So, the laws were developed based on the idea that we need to just stop the flow of drugs through the region. This further influenced the metrics or indicators that were being used to measure the success in the drug control effort. That’s why you hear about the number of arrests, seizures, people jailed or criminalized and so forth.
Unfortunately, the drug laws do not reflect the realities of what the drug situation is in the countries across the region. This was part of what prompted the efforts of the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) to embark on a fact finding mission, which released an outstanding report in 2014 titled “Not Just in Transit: Drugs, The State and Society in West Africa” . This report brought to the fore front that illicit drugs are not just transiting through the region but are also being consumed and produced in West Africa. Therefore, a drug control effort that has majorly focused on cutting drug supply is not only inadequate but cannot solve the health, security and development challenges posed by drugs.