The International Harm Reduction Association and Youth Rise have been doing some research into young people and drugs in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and have produced a paper.
Information came back from Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Romania, Rwanda, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
They say that there are young people using drugs in each of those countries and argue:
Prevention campaigns have not worked for these young people. The reality is that children and youth under the age of 18 are using drugs and we need to deal with it honestly, openly and without judgement.
The say that part of the problem has been the lack of honest drug education, limiting harm reduction services to adult drug users and policy makers failing to engage with young people:
Children and youth are left out of policy design, and were not involved in creating prevention and awareness campaigns or training and material dissemination. Young people were seen only as recipients of services and not viewed integral components to the programme design. The exclusion of young people from programme and policy design is a result of the added barriers or stigma and discrimination faced by young people.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for countries to take “all appropriate measures…to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties”.
The paper argues that this isn’t what is on offer, with pupils receiving “just say no” educational messages, random drug testing, exclusion from school and what they describe as:
coercive abstinence based treatment, mass incarceration of parents, siblings and youth, and the denial of harm reduction services based solely on arbitrary age restrictions.
The paper argues that states should be providing much more detailed data, so that policy can be built and scrutinised not only on prevalence of use or by the numbers who are arrested for drug offences, but also by looking at which children and young people are most vulnerable and being able to identify them clearly.
They ask whether the best interests of children are being served by the use of the criminal justice system to deal with drug misuse, and ask policy makers to promote “the physical, social, emotional and social development of the
They finish by calling for better consultation with children and young people in developing drug policy where it affects them and their rights.
Filed under: International