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The BMJ calls for doctors to lead war against drugs

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Doctors need to lead calls for drug policy reform to enforce a ban on the production, supply, possession, and use of some drugs for non-medical purposes, says The BMJ — one of the world’s oldest peer-reviewed general medical journals.

Prohibition laws, colloquially known as the “war on drugs,” cost at least $100 billion annually but have failed to curb either supply or demand, reduce addiction, minimise harm, cut violence, and reduce profits for organised crime, said the reputed journal’s Editor-in-Chief Dr Fiona Godlee and Features and Debates Editor Richard Hurley in an article.

A recent international evidence review found that governments should decriminalise minor drug offences, strengthen health and social sector alternatives to criminal sanctions, move cautiously, where possible, towards regulated drug markets, and scientifically evaluate the outcomes to build pragmatic and rational policy.

“Health should be at the centre of this debate, and so, therefore, should healthcare professionals,” they write. “Change is coming, and doctors should use their authority to lead calls for pragmatic reform informed by science and ethics.”

According to The BMJ, Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, says the need for more effective and humane drug policies is more urgent now than ever.

She argues for a pragmatic approach to drug policy reform, starting with the recognition that the idealised notion of a “society without drugs” is an unattainable fantasy. Reforms must then prioritise issues of public health, social integration, and security, while strictly respecting human rights and due judicial process, according to her.

In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act (1985) and the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985) are the two main laws to control the use of drugs for non-medical purpose.

A proposal to amend the NDPS Act via a Private Member’s Bill was announced by Patiala MP Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi in November 2016. If passed by the Parliament, the bill would legalise regulated supply of traditional intoxicants such as opium and marijuana in the country.

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