Human Rights and Drug Policy

In many countries around the world, drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses: torture and ill treatment by police, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and denial of essential medicines and basic health services.

Drug control policies, and accompanying enforcement practices, often entrench and exacerbate systematic discrimination against people who use drugs—driving people with serious health needs further underground. In addition, people who experience chronic pain or who are living with debilitating illnesses are unable to get essential medicines such as morphine because of excessive restrictions put in place to control opiate drugs.

The Open Society Foundations, the International Harm Reduction Association, Human Rights Watch, and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network have created a series of fact sheets on the human rights implications of anti-drug policies and practices. The fact sheets provide detailed information on the following six topic areas:

  • Harm Reduction
  • Drugs, Criminal Laws, and Policing Practices
  • Harm Reduction in Places of Detention
  • Compulsory Drug Treatment
  • Controlled Essential Medicines
  • Crop Eradication

The fact sheets are available in English, Mandarin, and Russian.