Thursday, May 23, 2013

Organization of American States OES Report on history of Drug Policy

This article comes from Stop the


OAS Releases Historic Report on Drug Policy Alternatives [FEATURE]


Posted in:
The Organization of American States (OAS) Friday released a ground-breaking report on hemispheric drug control that includes not only an assessment of the current state of affairs, but also looks at a number of alternate scenarios for future directions in drug policy, including explicit analysis of possible regulation and legalization regimes.

Colombian President Santos (l) receives the report from OAS head Insulza in Bogota Friday (
The report comes even as the US military is expanding its drug war in Latin America.The military is deploying assets to Central and South America, and US military assistance in Latin America has quadrupled in the last decade -- even as the region faces no external and diminishing internal threats.
The report, The Drug Problem in the Americas, was commissioned at last year's Cartagena Summit of the Americas, where a number of Latin American leaders led by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos criticized existing drug policies and called for a discussion of alternatives. On Friday, OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza hand-delivered the report to Santos in Bogota.
Prepared by researcher and analysts at the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) under the supervision of the OAS, the report is divided into two discrete sections, an analytical report and a scenarios report. It is the scenarios report that addresses possible directions in drug policy, including the formal consideration of legalization and regulation regimes.
The scenarios report envisions four possible (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) policy directions and how each scenario "understands" the drug problem, what the attempted response would be under that scenario, and the opportunities and challenges involved in acting on those scenarios.
Two scenarios, "Together" and "Resilience," represent largely traditional responses to drug use and the drug trade, with calls for the strengthening of weak states and their judicial institutions or addressing underlying social problems and strengthening communities to fight violence and addiction, respectively.
It is the other two scenarios, "Pathways" and "Disruption," that represent innovations in thinking at the policy-making level. In the "Disruption" scenario, the violence and instability created by the drug trade under prohibition is so severe that authorities "cut a deal" with traffickers in a bid to achieve social peace. This might, more or less fairly, be called "the Mexican scenario," given that previous Mexican PRI governments are almost universally assumed to have made such bargains with trafficking organizations, and given widespread speculation these days that the current PRI government may be considering something similar.

drug seizure, Mexico (
In the "Pathways" scenario, CICAD "understands" the problem as "the current regime for controlling drugs through criminal sanctions (especially arrests and incarceration of users and low-level dealers) is causing too much harm." The response is "trying out and learning from alternative legal and regulatory regimes, starting with cannabis."
The opportunities presented under the "Pathways" scenario include "development of better drug policies through experimentation, reallocation of resources from controlling drugs and drug users to preventing and treating problematic use, and shrinkage of some criminal markets and profits through regulation," while potential problems include "managing the risks of experimentation, especially with transitioning from criminal to regulated markets (including possible increases in problematic use), dealing with contraband, and new inter-governmental tensions that result from differences in regimes between jurisdictions."
The report is being welcomed as marking a true advance in the drug policy dialog at the hemispheric and international levels.
"The review explores what can be done in a post-drug war world," said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program. "This report envisions a number of possibilities that will broaden the current debate on drug policy reform."
"As part of the scenarios team, we worked to make it clear that another reality is indeed possible, that our countries can move orderly toward regulated drugs markets, and that there are possibilities to achieve better results," said Lisa Sanchez, coordinator of drug policies at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Mexico Unido Contra la Delinquencia, who worked on the report. "It is clear that the state should no longer ignore its responsibility to guarantee the health and security of all its citizens, and to do this, it needs to regain control over the drug markets which are currently illegal."
"While leaders have talked about moving from 'criminalization' to 'public health' in drug policy, punitive, abstinence-only approaches have still predominated, even in the health sphere," said Daniel Wolfe, director of the Open Society International Harm Reduction Program. "These scenarios offer a chance for leaders to replace indiscriminate detention and rights abuses with approaches that distinguish between users and traffickers and offer the community-based health services that work best for those in need."

methamphetamine user under arrest, US (
"This is the beginning of an international conversation on a new approach to drugs," said David Holiday, senior regional advocacy officer for the Open Society Latin America Program. "We can hope this will move policies from those currently based in repression to strategies rooted in public health and human rights."
That international conversation on drug policy will get going next week, when the OAS report will be presented and discussed at the bi-annual CICAD meeting in Washington, DC. Two weeks after that, the report and discussions over drug policy in the Americas will be the main agenda item -- "Toward a comprehensive anti-drug policy in the Americas" -- at the annual session of the OAS General Assembly, which is attended by foreign ministers in the region. Advocates are hoping that these regional discussions will also be taken up at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.
"Never before has a multilateral organization engaged in such an inclusive and intellectually legitimate analysis of drug policy options," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Indeed, it would have been inconceivable just two years ago that the OAS -- or any multilateral organization -- would publish a document that considers legalization, decriminalization and other alternatives to prohibitionist policies on an equal footing with status quo policies. Political pressures by the US and other governments would have made that impossible."
But much has changed in just the past few years, Nadelmann noted. In 2009, former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), César Gaviria (Colombia) and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico) joined with other members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy in saying the time had come to "break the taboo" on exploring alternatives to the failed war on drugs.
In 2011, those presidents joined with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss and other members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in calling for fundamental reforms to national and global drug policies. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ricardo Lagos (Chile), Vicente Fox (Mexico) and Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland) were among those who seconded their recommendations.
Late that year, sitting presidents began to join the calls of their predecessors. These included President Santos in Colombia, Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala, José Mujica in Uruguay and then-President Felipe Calderonof Mexico. Simultaneously, the victorious marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Washington State and Colorado transformed a previously hypothetical debate into real political reform. Other states will almost certainly follow their lead in coming years.
"The OAS scenarios report thus represents the important next step in elevating and legitimizing a discussion that until a few years ago was effectively banned from official government circles," Nadelmann said. "It is sure to have legs in a way that few reports by multilateral institutions ever do."

The Stigma of Drug Overdose from North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

I am in agreement with this article and the need of the Substance Use Treatment  community need to speak loud about Drug Over Dose and many other issues such as racism of Drug Laws misinformation and treatment.
Blogger from The Worse Treatment I ever had; Solrac
North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC)
The Stigma of Drug Overdose: A Mother’s Story
Article by Tessie Castillo

Denise Cullen has lived through one of the worst tragedies a mother can experience – losing a child. But if there is anything worse than losing a child, it is losing a child to a drug overdose, because grief is accompanied by stigma and blame.

Denise lost her only son, Jeff, when he was 27 years old to a fatal combination of morphine and Xanax. She remembers him as “warm, open, loving, bright and stubborn. He had a huge laugh and a fabulous smile,” she says. He was also impulsive and suffered from ADD.

“We were very, very close,” Denise recalls. “Even during those horrible years [of drug use], he and I never became distant from each other. It was torturous at times but the one thing that was always, always apparent was that he loved his family and his family loved him. No matter what.”

Jeff began using drugs in the 9th grade, possibly to self-medicate his ADD. Over the next 12 years he experimented with a variety of drugs, including his final drug of choice, opiates. During those years, “Jeff tried so, so hard to stop,” says Denise. “He felt ‘broken’ and guilty for the hurt he inflicted on his parents. He once wrote about his ‘fairytale life’ that he had screwed up so badly, and his self-esteem was gone toward the end. But he always took total responsibility for what he did.”

For Denise, the pressure and fear of watching her only child battle addiction was “like a roller coaster with good periods and crashes. You learn to be hyper-vigilant, living always with fear. You have hope as well – as long as they are alive you have hope, but the sound of the phone ringing at night, or not hearing from them in a normal way is very difficult. It’s always in the back of your mind that your child could die in some way as a result of their addiction. You may think you can imagine it, that you are in a way prepared…but you are not.”

The fateful day arrived on August 5, 2008. Jeff was at the beach with a friend waiting for a bed to open up in a long-term rehab facility. Denise remembers that he was happy and hopeful about the treatment center.

“I called him in the afternoon to ask when he would be home,” says Denise. “He said he’d call, but hadn’t done so by 6:30 or 8:30pm. Finally at 10pm I called and left a very angry message. I was upset that he was acting like ‘the old days’ and making [his parents] worry. He never got those last messages. He was lying on the grass in a nice neighborhood…dying.”

According to eyewitnesses – and shockingly, there were many – Jeff was lying on the grass starting around 4:30pm. He lay very near a curb where cars parked on an active street, yet no one stopped to ask what a clean, good-looking kid was doing motionless on the grass. At 11pm a woman finally called police, saying that Jeff hadn’t moved an inch in two hours. The time of death was around 10pm. He could have been saved.

“At around 3:00am a very kind man, a Sheriff from the Orange County Coroner’s Office, rang our doorbell,” says Denise. “He had Jeff’s wallet, keys, phone, and beach gear…I am not a dramatic person but I fell to the floor and screamed until I couldn’t scream anymore and simply made sounds like a wounded animal.”

Losing her only son was the worst kind of pain Denise could imagine, and she began visiting grief groups for parents. To her shock and chagrin, parents whose children had died of non drug-related means were judgmental about Jeff’s overdose. “I could actually feel people move their chairs away from me [when they heard Jeff had died of an overdose],” says Denise. “They had an attitude like ‘your child chose what killed him. Mine didn’t.”

But judgment and accusation didn’t stop Denise. She left the traditional grief groups to found her own chapter of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), for parents who also bear the unique stigma attached to drug overdose. GRASP was originally founded by Pat and Russ Wittberger of San Diego, but after they stepped down, Denise and her husband volunteered to take over. Today GRASP has 43 chapters in 24 states and offers healing and advice to parents in mourning.

“My advice to parents is to learn as much as they possibly can about addictive illness and drug use from responsible sources early on,” says Denise. “Talk honestly about the risk factors of becoming addicted by ‘experimenting,’ talk about family history of alcohol or substance abuse.”

Denise and her husband Gary also founded Broken No More, a nonprofit that works to change how substance abuse is viewed by the public and to fight failed drug policies. Run by people dealing with substance abuse issues in their families, the organization advocates for sterile syringe availability, 911 Good Samaritan laws that encourage witnesses to an overdose to call for help, and greater access to naloxone, an antidote to opiate overdose. Most importantly, Denise believes that to resolve the overdose crisis, people whose lives have been touched by this issue need to speak up.

“We must get loud about overdose,” she says. “During the AIDS crisis, nothing was done until the gay community spoke up, then help came by the bucketfuls. Now, not only has the disease become more manageable, but the stigma has been reduced as well. With overdose, we must address both these elements. We must research addiction and find better treatments and a cure. It can be done. We just have to care enough to do it.”

Death is not a time for blame. It is a time for reflection. And then, it is a time to speak.

This article was written by Tessie Castillo, NCHRC Program Coordinator