Interesting article (and linked articles) from id21 website ("www.id21.org/insights/insights-h10/art00.html") :
Tackling drugs to reduce poverty
The United Nations Office of Drug Control claimed in 2006 that 'Drug control is working and the world drug problem is being contained'. Yet the scale and diversity of the illicit global drug trade has increased in the last decade, as have rates of drug use in most countries.
Global estimates suggest there are nearly 200 million illicit drug users (five percent of the world's adult population) and over 13 million injecting drug users (IDUs), of whom 80 percent live in developing or transitional countries. The true magnitude of the global drug use problem is probably far greater. Around 10 percent of new HIV infections worldwide are linked with drug injecting, whilst 0.5 percent of deaths globally are due to illicit drug use and almost nine percent from tobacco.
The links between drugs and development
Drug use and production and attempts to control them are connected to poverty. International drug control efforts are based largely on the premise that enforcement against drug producers, traffickers and users may lead to the reduction and eradication of illicit drug markets and associated social, health and economic harm. Yet there is increasing concern about the balance between policies favouring eradication and those accepting the need to better manage drugs production and use in order to reduce risks to health and development. For example, crop eradication programmes in South-East Asia, Colombia and Afghanistan have been linked with increasing poverty among poppy and coca farmers, accelerated deforestation and social discontent, and in some instances have exacerbated armed conflict. Crop eradication without effective development initiatives threatens to reduce development potential. Tough law enforcement may aggravate the social and human costs of illicit drug use and related trade.
This issue of id21 insights health debates the links between drugs and development. David Mansfield reminds us that development initiatives are often blind to the economic plight of illicit drug producers. Kelley Lee highlights how tobacco farmers too are often exploited in their attempts for economic survival. Susan Beckerleg argues that the khat industry in East Africa is at 'full capacity', with eradication attempts potentially causing greater overall harm than a well regulated industry. As Axel Klein describes in St. Vincent, law enforcement interventions can bring unintended negative consequences for health and development.
Equally important, Chris Lyttleton and Patrick Griffiths highlight how mainstream development sometimes worsens existing drug problems. The pressures of increasing engagement with the global economy have led to new markets for illicit and legal drug use. Sheryl McCurdy and colleagues report how in sub-Saharan Africa rapid social and economic change in the 1980s and 1990s have increased alcohol consumption. David Macdonald and Mohammad Zafar illustrate how 25 years of conflict in Afghanistan has sustained drug use and production and has required strategies that integrate both demand and harm reduction.
These articles highlight firstly the importance of integrating drug control within a development framework, and secondly, the need to give greater commitment to the reduction of drug-related harm alongside an existing tradition of law enforcement.
Director, Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street WC1E 7HT, London, UK