SciCom & Partners’ Successful Scientific Session Proposals, ESOF 2018 Toulouse, 9 – 14 July.


This high-level, plenary-style panel will evidence how the goal of a ‘drug-free world’ backed up by a ‘war on drugs’ anchored in ‘science’ and enshrined in the international drug control treaties is both naïve and dangerous. Naïve, in that prohibition has had little impact on drug use with the number of consumers increasing by almost 20% from 2006 – 2013 to 246 million people.

Dangerous, in that prohibition fuels inhuman and coerced drug treatments, massive incarcerations, extrajudicial killings and the death penalty in contravention of international law, stokes the spread of blood-borne viruses, drives human rights abusers for profit and contributes to the drug-related deaths of nearly 200,000 people annually.

Strict drug laws have also escalated public health crises in the form of HIV and hepatitis C epidemics, Eastern Europe and Central Asia being regions of concern. Case-studies on Crimea, Georgia and intra-EU countries will be given. Nevertheless, a welcome shift is taking place in global drug policy, both in terms of public discourse, scientific evidence and policy implementation.

An increasing number of national or local authorities are experimenting different ways of regulating the cannabis market, facilitating opioid substitution therapies and harm reduction interventions, supervising and scaling-up injecting facilities and drug testing services, or implementing alternatives to criminalising those who use drugs. Yet, much still needs to be done to challenge the way societies view drugs and those who use them. If selected, we will bring to the panel the direct testimonies of the mother of a child needing medical cannabis, a person using drugs or a Minister responsible for corrections. We will also focus on what should be of direct concern to the scientific community insofar that prohibition also limits research about the possibly medical utility of illicit substances and builds obstacles to the prescription of pain relief and palliative medication.

Relevance of the selected approaches:

This timely and crucial debate will spotlight the significant positive shift taking place in local, national, regional and global policy-making, both in terms of public discourse, scientific evidence and drug policy implementation. Nevertheless, much still needs to be done to challenge the way societies view drugs and the people that use them. Many do so for enjoyment, some to relieve pain, while others use for traditional, cultural or religious reasons. Cross-cutting approaches on risk & safety, ethics and inequalities etc. will help highlight drug laws as a tool for social control while undermining the right to privacy and the rule of law. On the upside, they will also evidence the benefits of well-implemented decriminalisation.

Co-organised by the Global Commission on Drug Policy Chaired by Kofi Annan & SciCom – Making Sense of Science