Iberoamerican Health Ministers recommend Harm Reduction policies

During the XV Ibero-American Health Ministers Conference, the central axis was health policies for young Ibero-Americans while taking place at Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. Ministers from over 22 countries stated “repressive policies as the only solution for the psychoactive substances problem a resounding no”.

(Dominican Republic, September 6th) At the press release, important conclusions were presented, profoundly criticizing how drug consumption has been responded. According to the Ministers “repressive policies are irrelevant and damaging to the individual due to the marginalization and reduced opportunities the cause, especially to our youth”.

Also they expressed “policies must be based on a unrestricted respect for human rights, involving a Public Health approach, as a foundation on what the youth thinks about their own future, subjects that has been treated in Portugal and Sao Paulo (Brazil) properly”

Ibero-Americans Ministers said it’s imperative “making room for harm reduction policies, as Portugal an Sao Paula has given, which seek to reduce the negative effects for problematic consumption and seems to be the most successful policies”, so it concludes one of the items from the panel which will continue tomorrow.

This issues will remain in discussion in a few days by the most prominent specialist from the region and the world, during the 6th Latin American and 1st Caribbean Conference on Drug Policy organized by Confedrogas, which will take place October 5th and 6th in Santo Domingo.

Coordinator of the Organizing Committee, Pablo Cymerman, positively emphasized Ministers declarations and expressed broad consensus´s been developing, with great impulse from civil society, regarding the negative impacts that repressive policies have over human rights”

As well as “there´s plenty of evidence on how harm reduction policies and associate risk with consumption saves life’s and allow a reduction in the negative effects of drug use, thereon, aiming to improve people life quality larger objectives may be build together”.

“Let´s celebrate how Ibero-American Ministers have prioritize substance consumption as a health issue and have expressed it, this approach exposed why the response from Public Health require a larger investment than the ones from Criminal Law” Cymerman said, and concluded: “an disproportionate amount of resources have been destined by governments for repressive policies, detrimental to any efforts to improve human condition”

Current Policies by Numbers

According to the World Drug Report 2016 from UNODC, it is estimated that 1 in 20 adults, used at least one drug in 2014. As over 29 million people who use drugs are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and of those, 12 million are people who injected drugs, of whom 14.0 per cent are living with HIV.

After a period of stability, since 2010 cocaine use has also been rising, mainly because of an increase in cocaine use in South America.

According to the Treatment Centers National Census from Colombia (SUICAD), the amount of heroin users increased 65.0 per cent between 2004 and 2014.

What´s more, it´s undeniable how the actual punitive approach with massive imprisonment regarding drug crimes, have caused devastating effects on the people. Resent research published by the Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho, CEDD), one in five adults in a Latin American Prison was incarcerated for a drug related crime.

In Brazil the number of persons incarcerated for drug related crimes increase a 320 per cent between 2005 and 2012, and in Argentina the population under arrest for violating the Narcotic Law has doubled over the last decade.

High imprisonment rates have caused a penitentiary crisis and inhumane prison conditions which are at the center of the debate about the necessity to reform Latin American drug policies.