At What Cost?

HIV and Human Rights Consequences of the Global "War on Drugs"
International Harm Reduction Development Program
Open Society Institute
March 2009

at-what-costsA decade after governments worldwide pledged to achieve a "drug-free world," there is little evidence that the supply or demand of illicit drugs has been reduced. Instead, aggressive drug control policies have led to increased incarceration for minor offenses, human rights violations, and disease. The book, published by the Open Society Institute (OSI), examines the descent of the global war on drugs into a war on people who use drugs. From Puerto Rico to Phnom Penh, Manipur to Moscow, the scars of this war are carried on the bodies and minds of drug users, their families, and the health and service providers who work with them.

application-pdfDownload the publication (PDF - 3067K)

After reading the stories contained here of suspected drug users in Indonesia strip-searched on public streets; former drug users in China humiliated in front of their families and friends and hauled in handcuffs to police stations for urine tests; or newly incarcerated drug users in India having their withdrawal symptoms treated by prison authorities with “the stick,” the question is not just whether a drug-free world is possible, but how many violations of human dignity and ethical conduct are seen as acceptable in the effort to achieve it. How can drug control conventions aimed at “reducing human suffering” be permitted to excuse so much hardship and humiliation?

The following topics are included in this volume:

  • Police Abuse of Injection Drug Users in Indonesia
  • Arbitrary Detention and Police Abuse of Drug Users in Cambodia
  • Forced Drug Testing in China
  • Drug Control Policies and HIV Prevention and Care Among Injection Drug Users in Imphal, India
  • Effects of UN and Russian Influence on Drug Policy in Central Asia
  • The Impacts of the Drug War in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Civil Society Reflections on 10 Years of Drug Control in Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • Twin Epidemics–Drug Use and HIV/AIDS in Pakistan