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Network of scientists wants overhaul of drug policy evaluation

February 1, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A letter released by scientific experts in advance of this spring's United Nations (UN) General Assembly Special Session on Drugs urges governments to shed traditional approaches to evaluating drug policies, in favor of measures that look more broadly at community impacts.

Referring to the health and security effects that the letter recommends that governments examine in their policy analyses, Imperial College London neuropsychopharmacology professor David Nutt said in a news release last month, “These outcomes include the numbers of fatal overdose, blood-borne disease transmission rates, or traffic accidents—all of which have a far more meaningful impact on communities than measuring the level of drug use in the general population, or the amount of drugs that have been seized annually.”

Nutt added in regard to drug use and enforcement data, “While these may be important statistics, they tell us very little about how drugs are impacting communities.”

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, a global network of scientists that seeks to promote use of scientific evidence to inform drug policy, released the letter at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Jan. 21. The letter includes suggested indicators for governments to evaluate the health, security, development and human rights effects of drug policies.

The UN in April will hold the largest international meeting on drug policy since 1998.