I am moved to write this commentary by the situation in the Philippines, where the president, Rodrigo Duterte, not only rose to power urging his people to kill drug “addicts”, but has now turned a blind eye, even encouraged, the extra-judicial killings of more than 8000 drug users, their families and friends.
This is a tragedy, not only for those who have been killed, but for human rights advocates and for anyone who uses drugs. How did we arrive at this situation?
The legacy of society’s decades-long (and ineffective) “war on drugs”, coupled with centuries of stereotypes and misinformation about drugs and drug users, has created an intense stigma around people who use drugs, built on a morally laden hysteria often directed at those least able to defend themselves.
We don’t kill drug users in New Zealand but the punishments we do mete out are also born of stigmatisation. Continue reading Drugs, Stigma and Harms