Monday, July 7, 2008

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DOCUMENTS FAILURE OF U.S. DRUG POLICIES

Bruce Mirken, AlterNet The United States has some of the world's most punitive drug policies and has led the cheering section for tough "war on drugs" policies worldwide, but a new international study suggests that those policies have been a crashing failure. A World Health Organization survey of 17 countries, conducted by some of the world's leading substance abuse researchers, found that we have the highest rates of marijuana and cocaine use.

The numbers are startling. In the United States, 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. No one else was even close. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the United States leading the world by a large margin.

This study is important because it's the first time a respected international group has surveyed drug use around the world, using the same questions and procedure everywhere. . .

Some of the most striking numbers are from the Netherlands, where adults are permitted to possess a small of marijuana and purchase it from regulated businesses. Some U.S. officials have claimed that these Dutch policies have created some sort of decadent cesspool of drug abuse, but the new study demolishes such assertions: In the Netherlands, only 19.8 percent have used marijuana, less than half the U.S. figure.

Even more striking is what the researchers found when they asked young adults when they had started using marijuana. Again, the United States led the world, with 20.2 percent trying marijuana by age 15. No other country was even close, and in the Netherlands, just 7 percent used marijuana by 15 - roughly one-third of the U.S. figure.

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