Sven-Olov Carlsson gave an opening address at the 5th Annual World Federation of Drugs Conference in Vienna on March 12-13. His speech challenged ideas about drug policy that are popular at this time. “The goal in helping a loved one with a substance use problem is not to reduce their use. It is to stop drug use,” he said.
Anyone who believes that a “Harm Reduction” emphasis (instead of drug prevention) needs to take a close look at the current heroin epidemic and ask if we are really saving lives. Today some countries favor harm reduction policies over drug prevention. These policies fail to acknowledge the difficulty of treatment and that harm reduction only prevents immediate death. More lives will be saved when we stop the drug use, and prevent the initiation into drug usage.
While it is important that the Senate passed the CARA Act and that the House will now take up their version of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, we are sorry that Congress is not addressing youth marijuana use as a gateway to opiate abuse which in turn leads to heroin abuse.
In his opening address Carlsson said that a successful drug policy makes it clear that drug use is unacceptable. The future of an improved drug policy is not to legalize intoxicating drugs of abuse, including marijuana. (The United States is demonstrating that legalization does not work.)
In the US, funding for D.A.R.E. has been drastically reduced, with most schools no longer using the D.A.R.E. program. Since some of the states have legalized medical marijuana it has become controversial to be anti-pot, and D.A.R.E. responded by cutting marijuana out of its standard curriculum. It’s time to replace that program with a more effective anti-drug prevention education in schools–geared at the state of affairs today.
The US should listen to Carlsson, President of the World Federation of Drugs. In his speech, he proclaimed: “It is in the development of a balanced, restrictive drug policy that prevents drug use, and that intervenes with drug users to provide them with a path to life-long recovery.
“Instead of legalizing drugs, an enlightened drug policy can harness the criminal justice system to thwart drug markets, facilitate entry into treatment and restrict incarceration to egregious offenders.” In other words, a public heath approach and a criminal justice approach should not be considered as opposites.
Read Carlsson’s entire address: Drug Policy Should Prevent Initiation of Drug Use
Carlsson is from Sweden which has a drug policy based on prevention and treatment. It has only 5% of youth drug users in contrast to 22% in the USA. Socialist policy depends on low drug use and keeping marijuana illegal, something that Bernie Sanders’ followers don’t understand. (Sanders may understand, but he wants young voters on his side. )