Every year, hundreds of millions of people around the world use illicit drugs. Many do so for enjoyment, some to relieve pain, while others use for traditional, cultural or religious reasons. Despite the fact that drug use is both widespread and non-violent, the predominant approach of governments around the world is to criminalize those who use and/or possess drugs. Such policies are enacted with the false hope that, combined with efforts targeting the production and supply of drugs, the drug market and use can be eliminated.
The harms created through implementing punitive drug laws cannot be overstated when it comes to both their severity and scope. On a daily basis, human rights abuses—from the death penalty and extrajudicial killings, to inhuman and coerced drug treatment—are committed around the world in the name of drug control, while strict drug laws have escalated public health crises in the form of HIV and hepatitis C epidemics. Furthermore, in a number of countries drug laws have caused severe prison overcrowding. These extensive damages wrought by a punitive approach to drugs and drug use fundamentally undermine the principle of human dignity and the rule of law, fracturing the relationship between States and their populations.
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