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OPINION: UEL graduate of Health Promotion and Health Services Management Shivani Joshi wants a compassionate drug policy

PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 June 2017

UEL

When we speak of drugs, words such as ‘illegal’, ‘addict’, ‘junkie’ and ‘criminal’ are often heard. Yet research shows that 80 per cent of people who use drugs do so without a problem.

It is evident that it is the way in which we regard drugs which is highly problematic. We emphasise legal and illegal, ignoring the fact that we are all drug users in some form, and that some legal drugs are more harmful than many illegal ones.

Even for those who do experience addiction, we should turn our attention to helping them with their problems rather than imprisoning and criminalising them – focusing not on the drug, but on the pain that their drug use may be attempting to diminish. For those with problematic drug use, we advocate a harm reduction approach—rather than punishing behaviour or trying to enforce abstinence.

We should learn from Portugal: the government there decriminalised people who use drugs in 2001, and this policy has led to a fall in overdoses, fewer HIV infections, and a 50pc reduction in injecting drug use.

Harm reduction saves lives.

This month, students from the University of East London will be taking part in the global Support, Don’t Punish campaign (supportdontpunish.org). June 26 is the campaign’s Global Day of Action, with events in more than 100 cities around the world.

In Stratford, information stations run and designed by public health students will highlight how the war on drugs is not working, and what should change. Music, speakers, spoken word poetry and street-art are a few highlights on the day.

We invite you to stand with us in solidarity on June 26 on the Broadway in Stratford, where we will collectively call to action for better, more compassionate drug policy.

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