By Coalition PLUS
Today, the "war on drugs" is the most widespread vision by the vast majority of states in terms of drug policy. This war takes various forms: criminalisation of the people who use drugs (as far as the death penalty in 32 countries), supply reduction by destroying the cultures and productions of controlled drugs, and fighting against the traffic, and making civil society organisations’ lives difficult, specifically those working in support of people who use drugs, particularly on the grounds that they encourage drug use by promoting harm reduction tools.
It has had, and still has terrible consequences on our communities globally: vulnerability, stigmatisation, social exclusion, infections (152,000 people who use drugs infected by HIV in 2015 alone), deaths (60,000 AIDS-related deaths among people who use drugs in 2015, and 220,000 of hepatitis C virus), drugs laced with dangerous products, overdoses, homicides. These have taken a heavy toll on our communities, and is unacceptable, as all this suffering is preventable.
Yet attempts at critical and scientific analysis of this war are regularly condemned and portrayed as promoting drugs. The debate is most of the time compromised. As the philosopher Jacques Derrida explains: "We can already conclude that the concept of drugs is a non-scientific concept, instituted on the basis of moral or political evaluations: it carries in itself the idea of norm or prohibition. It does not give any possibility of description or statement, it is a watchword, and is most often prohibitive.
The purpose of this guide is first to broaden to the debate, compiling scientific facts, studies, historical analysis in order to place this war on drugs in context.
The reason we created this guide is also because Coalition PLUS member organisations and partners, like all those working in the field, have something to be proud of.
By sometimes violating the laws (civil disobedience), they prioritise respect for life and the right to health of people, regardless of their lifestyles, their drug use, their background and their identities.
Our community organisations support people who use psychoactive drugs in accessing care and prevention methods, they distribute clean needles and promote all harm reduction tools, they inform people about their rights and ways not to allow violations of these to go unpunished. Some for a very long time as AIDES in France, GAT in Portugal, ARAS in Romania, PILS in the Republic of Mauritius. Others more recently like REVS PLUS in Burkina-Faso, ALCS in Morocco, ARCAD-SIDA in Mali, etc., and with relentless energy.
Among these people who use drugs, some have become activists in our organisations, and carry the words and expertise of those directly concerned. They take control of their life and they are fighting to enforce their rights, our rights.
Today we are at a tipping point. Pioneer States are finally coming out of repressive policies and decriminalising drug use. Others are even committed to the path of regulated legalisation with a public health perspective. In 2019, we are expecting the assessment of this disastrous war that has been lasting for too long. We want to bring our point of view on this assessment, and on the good policies that could be implemented instead, and that could be implemented right now!