Harming children and young people

The war on drugs has long been justified on the grounds that it protects children and young people. Its supporters claim that people who use and supply drugs must be arrested, criminalised, and in some cases even imprisoned or executed, in order to keep drugs off our streets and society’s youth safe. But this approach has been tried for more than half a century now – and it's been a disaster.

Any marginal benefits that the approach may bring are dramatically outweighed by the costs it generates: the drug war, far from protecting young people, is actively putting them in danger.

This briefing from the Count the Costs initiative highlights the specific costs of the drug war for children and young people. It demonstrates how this war, while declared in the name of protecting young people from the ‘drug threat’, has ironically exposed them to far greater harm.

As the report shows, the current approach to drugs is:

  • Threatening young people's health;
  • undermining children's human rights;
  • tearing families apart; and
  • fuelling crime and violence.

In 2016, UN member states will come together to discuss international drug policy at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. It is vital that the slogan of the UNGASS – ‘A better tomorrow for today’s youth’ – proves not to have been just more empty rhetoric designed to preserve the status quo. Because more of the same will mean a more dangerous world for young people to grow up in.

The War on Drugs: Harming, not protecting, young people (PDF)