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Coordinated International Drug Policy Becoming Harder to Achieve: Experts

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Authorities charged with reigning in the international drug trade are having a difficult time, as it spreads to new markets and quickly evolves, an expert tells CNBC.

“The drug trade is becoming truly more global,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow at the Washington-based think tank the Brookings Institution. “New countries have emerged as crucial new demand places. For example Brazil and Argentina arguably now have per capita drug consumption on a par with the U.S.”

Russia is experiencing a “major heroin epidemic,” and China’s drug consumption is robust, she says. West and East Africa are entry points to the European drug market and beyond, she said. These trends make it increasingly difficult to coordinate an international drug policy, she adds.

According to the United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), demand for drugs worldwide has not been substantially reduced and around 200,000 people continue to die every single year due to illicit drugs. The UNDOC and the European crime-fighting agency Europol state the annual global drugs trade is worth around $435 billion a year, including $84 billion for the cocaine trade.

In June, the UNDOC released a report that concluded the increasing popularity of designer drugs is an alarming public health problem. The number of new synthetic drugs rose by more than 50 percent in less than three years, the report states.

Felbab-Brown says drug markets are very flexible, and can easily regroup if authorities interrupt their business. She adds there is little consensus on how to deal with the drug supply. She points to Latin America, where countries such as Uruguay, Guatemala and Mexico are considering relaxing their approach to illegal drugs.

“I expect we’re going to see a further breaking of the consensus over drugs with more governments shifting direction to the stance taken by some Latin American governments to decriminalize drug use,” said Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium. “Other governments, however, such as Russia and China, will continue with their hard-line, zero-tolerance policies.”

1 Response to this article

  1. Grainne Kenny / August 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    If States that have signed a diplomatic agreement with the UN break that agreement they will attract many more drug addicts and traffickers resulting in a breakdown among the most vulnerable people in their society. Who then will hold their hands up and take responsibility? Presently, we are looking at the mayhem in the US States that have broken this agreement. To put it more simply, we have only to look at the damage to health and related deaths caused in society by the two legal drugs alcohol and tobacco. We have not succeeded in keeping young people from accessing and using them. How would we protect them and other vulnerable people. Taxes don’t cover the cost to alcoholics and tobacco users nor would they cover the newer toxic variety of drug as physicians in A and E Departments do not know how to treat these patients due to lack of knowledge of the content of substance injested. The dealers whether in pin striped suits or dark alleyways will always strive to outsmart each other at the cost of the addict.

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