The last three decades have witnessed a global increase in the criminalization of improper drug use. Criminalization has resulted in increased use of harsh punitive sanctions imposed on drug offenders and dramatic increases in rates of incarceration. These policies have had limited impact on eliminating or reducing illegal drug use and may have resulted in adverse consequences for social and community health.

Growing evidence indicates that drug treatment and counseling programs are far more effective in reducing drug addiction and abuse than is incarceration. Needle exchange, compulsory treatment, education, counseling, drug substitutes like Methadone or Naxolene have proved highly effective in reducing addiction, overdose and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.