The use of punishments such as incarceration for those involved in the illicit drug trade has long been relied upon a deterrent. However, it has resulted in the imposition of disproportionate sentencing (including the use of the death penalty) and overcrowded prisons, with high risks to health, social cohesion and human rights. Some countries and jurisdictions are now moving towards decriminalisation, alternatives to prison and the regulation of some markets.
The death penalty, which represents an extreme example of the perverse ways in which governments punish people suspected of involvement with illegal drug, is still being used by countries around the world including Malaysia.
Data from the Philippine government show that at least 3,987 individuals have been killed in the police's anti-drug operations; and human rights organisations estimate considerably higher numbers of fatalities.