A New Resource to Measure Good and Bad Drug Policies

March 28, 2019

Think the Philippines and Russia. Now think Portugal and Mexico.

The former two have made headlines for their violent, often extrajudicial anti-drug user regimes, while the latter pair have been praised for their forward-thinking policies. But there are many more countries in the world whose approaches toward people who use drugs have not been scrutinized so publicly or thoroughly.

On March 27, the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation (CDPE), based in Toronto, Canada, launched an interactive map to promote this further scrutiny.

Using data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on 44 countries (so far), the Drug Policy Metrics Map breaks down how governments around the world manage, police and support people who use drugs. The wealth of data on many metrics—organized in broader categories including Health, Peace & Security, Development, Human Rights, Demand Reduction, Supply Reduction and International Cooperation—allows readers to compares governments’ policies with their outcomes.

The map’s diverse array of measures represents a welcome chance to assess a bigger picture in a field which has too often been reduced to supply-side questions, following the pursuit of a “drug-free” world.

While there are currently major disparities in the number of indicators available to gauge different countries’ successes and failures—as illustrated by the graphic below—the map is already a hugely valuable resource for people who care about drug policy and human rights. The CDPE plans to continue to add data for the nations covered, and to expand coverage to many more countries.

“Better indicators are essential to measuring the success or failure of both new and existing drug policies,” explains Dr. Dan Werb, executive director of the CDPE. “This is critical given that many countries are seeking effective ways to create policies that foster the health and safety of communities affected by drugs.”

He adds, “It enables government officials, researchers, and civil society alike to think critically about how we should be defining successful drug policies.”

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