The following editorial was written by Dr. Evan Wood;
As an internal medicine physician working in the inner-city hospital serving Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, I see the unintended consequences of the war on drugs daily. Gang members engaged in drug supply and distribution arrive in the emergency room bloody and panicked, after being shot, stabbed or beaten. On the demand side, impurities and adulterants stemming from basement drug labs and uncertainties regarding potency keep emergency personnel busy responding to drug overdoses.
Overdose survivors commonly suffer from chronic injection-related infections including hepatitis C and HIV. They result from sharing needles in abandoned buildings, rat-infested flophouses and other hidden environments where addicts often congregate to avoid police sweeps. Due to drug law enforcement, inner city emergency rooms have become triage centres in a war governments are waging against their own citizens.
Despite enormous taxpayer investments in enforcing laws aimed at reducing the supply of illegal drugs, Canada’s streets remain awash in heroin and cocaine. Meanwhile, designer drugs such as ecstasy are becoming more readily available to young people than alcohol and tobacco. The war on drugs, like all expensive government programs, should be subject to scrutiny and a value-for-money audit. However, so far, it has been remarkably exempt from accountability. This type of impact assessment is long overdue given that conservative estimates suggest that U.S. taxpayers alone have spent more than $1-trillion since former president Richard Nixon first declared America’s “War on Drugs.”
You can also read the report: Global Commission on Drug Policy report on HIV and drug policy.