Drug addiction continues to be a major problem for people around the world. Millions take illegal drugs every day because they have become dependent on them. These individuals suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are not using and know that as soon as they get their next ‘hit’, these symptoms will subside. However, it is not just illegal drugs that are causing problems for the public. Many are developing devastating addictions to controlled medications and are struggling with a variety of issues, such as morphine or amphetamine addiction.
Prescription medications are often considered to be safe for use because doctors prescribe them; and when taken correctly, they are safe. In general, these drugs are only prescribed when their benefits outweigh the perceived risks. Nevertheless, it is important to note that they do carry risks, including addiction. Prescription drug addiction can be just as harmful as an addiction to illegal drugs.
NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recently issued new guidelines for the safer use of prescription medications, and now the United Nations is meeting to discuss the global strategy for dealing with illegal narcotics. There has been a growing trend towards the decriminalisation of illegal drugs over the past few years, and many believe that UN officials and world leaders are about to make changes to tackle the growing problem of illegal drugs all over the world.
A number of UN member states, particularly Latin American countries, believe the current war on drugs is failing and are leaning towards decriminalisation. Many are of the opinion that the focus now needs to be on reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs. Some even believe that so-called ‘soft’ drugs such as cannabis should be legalised.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto highlighted this issue by informing other member states of plans to increase the amount of cannabis that Mexicans would be permitted to have for personal use. He also spoke of plans to legalise the drug for medical reasons.
Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales said, “One of the most important changes that the current drug policy needs is that we give priority to demand reduction rather than focusing solely on supply reduction.”
Other member states such as Russia are more reluctant to change drug laws and are unhappy with the way many US states have legalised cannabis.
Although there are not expected to be any significant changes made to current drugs laws during the meetings, some delegations from Latin America and Europe are hoping the seeds can be planted. Many believe the current drugs policies around the world are inadequate at tackling the growing problem and think there needs to be a more liberal drug strategy put in place. They feel this will address the issue of public health and human rights.
According to Magdy Martinez-Soliman, UN Assistant Secretary-General, “Conventional policies have failed in reducing addiction and production.”
With so many advocates for reform, the General Assembly’s declaration that it would continue to focus on the approach of reducing supply rather than reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs came as a disappointment.
Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos was in agreement with other Latin American leaders in relation to a change in policy and believes there needs to be a different approach adopted in terms of global drug policies. He said, “This is not a call for legalisation of drugs. It is a call for recognition that between total war and legalisation there exists a broad range of options worth exploring.”
He also wants the death penalty to be abolished for those found guilty of drug crimes and believes drug users should be treated with rehabilitation rather than prison sentences.
The drug laws in the UK prohibit possession and supply of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabis. Those found in possession of illegal drugs could face a fine or a prison sentence. Sentences are much more severe if an individual is found supplying the drug – this includes giving it to a friend.
Many consider that those who are struggling with addiction should not be treated as criminals. They think that the onus should still be on prosecuting people supplying illegal drugs but that those who use drugs should be addressed instead.
When it comes to illnesses such as heroin or amphetamine addiction, our opinion is that the individual should be helped to overcome his or her problems rather than sent to prison or given hefty fines.
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