Are There Any International Efforts to Fight Addiction?
A decade after the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Nixon Administration launched an anti-drug effort that the media labeled the War on Drugs. Harsh punishments and zero tolerance policies were enacted to discourage drug abuse, and US efforts eventually included CIA and military drug interdiction. In 2011, the UN Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report that argued the international drug war had failed to achieve its objectives, yet criminal punishment remains a primary weapon employed against drug abuse. Today, some countries experience more success by treating addiction as a public health, not a legal issue, and international cooperation includes more information sharing and resource pooling. The United Nations leads the international effort with research, programs and data collection, including its annual World Drug Report, but specific countries also work together in various ways.
How Nations Fight Drug Abuse
The US is home to vitally important studies that have changed global perceptions on addiction, but the government still focuses heavily on the drug trade. In 2013, USA Today reported that international cooperation in the western hemisphere largely involves US military initiatives in Latin America, which recently included the following facts:
- The most expensive Latin American initiative since the Cold War
- The training of local law enforcement agencies in Latin America
- Multiple branches of the US military deployed to stop smugglers
- Massive increases in weapon and equipment sales
Military initiatives hope to fight addiction by reducing availability, but other primary goals include reductions in violence and instability. Colombia benefited significantly from these efforts, and considerable focus is now on Mexico and trade routes through Guatemala, the Honduras and El Salvador.
In the Middle East, the relationship between drug availability and abuse is currently on full display. Increased poppy production in Afghanistan has devastated neighboring Iran, which now has the highest addiction rate in the world. The 2008 Commission on Narcotic Drugs noted that the Islamic republic often applies the death sentence to drug offenses, but it seems that tough laws have not dissuaded substance abuse, so the state is now utilizing progressive programs like methadone clinics, treatment charities, Narcotics Anonymous groups and needle exchanges. Similarly, a 2005 University of California Los Angeles study found that strict Middle Eastern nations (like Libya, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) have also developed addiction treatment programs.
European Drug Abuse Efforts
When it comes to international cooperation, Europe arguably has the most effective system. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction provides the European Union with evidence-based studies and data that addresses addiction in the following ways:
- Provides the latest clinical evidence for producing informed drug laws and programs
- Includes evidence on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and social reintegration
- Other data covers overdose, social responses, treatment demand and drug seizures
In 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published the report “Sweden’s Successful Drug Policy: A Review of the Evidence” to explore how that country lowered drug-use rates at a time when the global rates continued to rise. Included in the report were the following main points:
- Sweden is a European leader in the percentage of spending on addiction issues
- There is a major focus on drug criminals with options to mandate treatment
- Efforts were made to promote outreach activities that encouraged addicts to get help
- Needle exchange programs were set up that also encouraged people to seek treatment
- Sweden’s proactive approach led to creating the first methadone program in Europe
Further epitomizing Scandinavia’s proactive efforts, in 2014 The Atlantic reported that Norway and Sweden are experimenting with temporary jobs programs as a means to help recovering heroin addicts reintegrate into society. Still, not every European country has a coordinated or effective approach. In 2014 The Moscow Times noted that Russia now allows the courts to mandate addiction treatment, but the country severely lacks treatment facilities, which makes rehab placement rare.
Improving the International Effort Against Drug Abuse
The Global Addiction Conference is one of many organizations that seeks to improve treatment through international accreditation standards and by increasing the flow of data and knowledge. For decades, the drug abuse fight has focused on stopping cultivation and trade, and on punishing users, but evidence-based studies have motivated more international cooperation in sharing information, clinical data and effective strategies. Furthermore, with the increase in prescription drug abuse, several countries have standardized controlled substance schedules as they have also pressured countries to restrict addictive medications like clonazepam and painkillers.
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