THE war on drugs has not reduced the production, trafficking, availability or use of drugs, a massive study by the European Commission has found.
The research project said the prices of drugs have fallen significantly in western Europe despite massive efforts at law enforcement.
The commission said drug prohibition has inflicted "substantial harms", including the creation of lucrative black markets, as well as inflicting political stability in certain countries and worsening levels of violence.
It does not say drug prohibition should end but said lessons needed to be learned about which policies work and which do not.
"The world drugs problem seems to be more or less in the same state as in 1998," said the commission.
"If anything, the situation has become more complex: prices for drugs in most Western countries have fallen since 1998 by as much as 10%-30%, despite tougher sentencing of sellers.
"At the same time, there is no evidence that drugs have become more difficult to obtain. Cannabis use has become a ‘normal’ part of young people’s lives in many Western countries."
It said up to 50% of people born after 1980 have at least tried it, but the majority do not continue to use it beyond early adulthood.
The Global Illicit Drug Markets Report 1998 to 2007 issued a series of sobering conclusions:
* There is "no evidence" that the global drug problem has reduced.
* There is a "lack of evidence" that controls (crop eradication, seizures and arrests) can reduce total global production or trafficking.
* Little is spent on prevention and existing programmes have little effect.
"We think that drug policy had no more than a marginal positive influence. Production and trafficking controls only redistributed activities [between countries]," said the report.
"Enforcement against local markets failed in most countries to prevent continued availability at lower prices. Treatment reduced harms both of dependant users and of society without reducing the prevalence of drug use.
"What this study is saying is that the ‘war on drugs’ approach, the attempt to remove drugs, is clearly not a success," said criminologist Johnny Connolly, linked to the Health Research Board.
"It’s saying we must look at sustainable policies, that involve partnership between voluntary, community and state and combine law enforcement with harm reduction."
By Cormac O’Keeffe
August 4, 2009