A number of Brazilian speakers, including doctors and other health professionals, expressed deep concern about the escalating violence resulting from current policies.

3 Dec 2014

Two doctors, both IDHDP members, Dr Sergio Sanchez from Chile and Dr Gady Zabicky from Mexico covered the important issue of stimulant use in Latin America as well as how the legal frameworks on drug policy particularly on cannabis are being challenged more than ever. Snr Pedro Arenas, from Colombia, the former mayor of a small town hugely affected by international drug policy, who has spent his life fighting for the rights of drug users and coca producers, spoke about the needs of countries that produce drugs so much in demand by the rich countries of the world. Finally, Snr Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, from Mexico, spoke about the huge amounts of money from being the entry point to the USA for almost all of its cocaine and how that leads to destabilization of law and order. He also talked about the big increase in local consumption with its associated health problems. Finally he reminded the audience about the 70,000 dead and 22,000 disappeared since the start of the war on drugs in Mexico.

In discussions that followed – it was clear that new ways had to be found to manage the problems caused by current drug policy in Latin America. Everyone agreed that the health of individuals and society should be the starting point for all drug policy. Seventeen doctors from six countries among the conference delegates joined up as members of IDHDP. To quote a new Brazilian member “It makes sense to join IDHDP – as doctors it is our duty to stand up against the senseless violence caused by drug wars that is killing our young people”.

A number of Brazilian speakers, including doctors and other health professionals, expressed deep concern about the escalating violence resulting from current policies and the huge amount of public funds spent on incarcerating people for minor drug offences – many members of the audience were surprised to hear that Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world.

Other speakers included:

Julita Lemgruber, a Brazilian sociologist who spoke about a current study looking at attitudes toward drug related legislation and policies and identify the main reasons, both cognitive and emotional, that lie behind the public’s opposition to the ideas of decriminalizing, legalizing and or regulating illicit drugs. Early results show that people feel that drug policy reform would lead to a huge increase in drug use and with any form of decriminalization apocalyptic scenarios are predicted. This suggests that the general public require much more accessible and accurate information as well as more discussion.

Ms Astri Parawita Ayu from Indonesia spoke about a study looking at the perception of medical students in Indonesia toward addiction and people who use drugs. This led to an heated discussion about the amount of training medical students get on addiction, with participation from many countries – there was agreement on how little it is taught and how medical students start and continue with their already existing prejudices.

Dr Albrecht Ulmer, one of the founding members of IDHDP. DR Ulmer started a lively debate with his interactive session on “Treatment of addicts within or outside of "Normal" medicine – A question of the right setting and attitude” he asked why in most countries the treatment of drug use is in special centers or clinics and why is it not treated within “normal” medicine. Ulmer proposed that addiction itself is a discriminating disease; people keep their distance, nobody is trusting and employers don’t give jobs. This discussion showed up the many differences in treatment and who is best to do it.

Information and presentations from the rest of the conference will be available soon on the Global Addiction website.

Doctors can lead the way to healthier drug policies – join IDHDP now.

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