Worldwide drug laws and eradication efforts rarely appear to be based upon lessons learned from history. The drug control issues of today are often viewed as exclusively modern problems, but the fact of the matter is that various groups and governments have sought to control drug abuse for centuries– and failed as miserably as we’re failing now. Nearly 200 years ago a war on drugs in Asia caused a real war between China and Great Britain (twice in 2 decades), but today the war on drugs has infected nearly every country in the world; and with an astonishingly higher number of casualties. Understanding the state of worldwide drug laws today is necessary to develop education, prevention, intervention and treatment programs for tomorrow.
The United States is both the largest consumer of illicit drugs in the world and the world’s most prominent enforcer of drug policies – even in countries where it has no jurisdiction. This is because of the War on Drugs, which essentially pits rich, highly developed drug-consuming nations like the U.S. and the United Kingdom against poor, primarily third-world countries. The U.S. openly conducts drug raids in the Middle East, many South American countries, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central American countries. These eradication and interdiction efforts lead to high levels of violence in those countries.
Some countries are even more rigid in the drug policies they enforce. In Malaysia and Thailand possession can result in 15 to 20 years in prison, while trafficking or distribution is punishable by death. According to the entry for Prohibition of Drugs in Wikipedia, Indonesia also regularly sentences people – including foreigners – to death for drug trafficking. In the last 7 years alone at least 10 Australian citizens have faced the death penalty in Indonesia for drug smuggling. (1)
However, some countries appear to practice a double standard. As an example, in some Middle Eastern countries it is permissible to smoke or ingest hashish, but it is against Islamic law to consume alcohol.
In the Netherlands soft drugs like marijuana, hashish and mushrooms are illegal but their sale and use is widely tolerated by authorities. Punishments for possession or distribution of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy are severe, however.
In England heroin is illegal but addicts can get a prescription for it.
These are all examples of confusing drug laws that fail to establish a normal, adoptable standard.
Even international efforts to stop drug trafficking shows little lasting results. Authorities are able to temporarily interrupt drug supplies, but worldwide demand is so high that eventually supplies will surface again. In an article on worldwide drug laws, the Drug Policy Alliance reports that:
“In Afghanistan, illicit opium production is so lucrative that establishment of a stable, non-corrupt central government is proving nearly impossible. International efforts to stop Afghan farmers from growing opium have fallen flat because the well-resourced Taliban can provide for farmers in a way the government cannot.” (2)
Meanwhile, a number of countries are in the process of passing or considering laws that relax drug policies and focus more on treatment programs than incarceration. This includes the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Poland and other countries.
If you’re struggling with a drug problem but you fear reaching out for help because of drug laws, you should know that you can call us confidentially right now for guidance. We’re here 24 hours per day to help you get the drug addiction treatment you need. Call us now.
(1) Wikipedia Prohibition of Drugs
(2) The Drug Policy Alliance Drug Laws Around the World