Billions of dollars later, countless lives lost and disfigured, policymakers are coming round to the idea that the war on drugs has been at best a misguided endeavor.

Latin American countries – which have borne the brunt of the violence and dislocation - are spearheading the demand for new thinking. Even in the United States, which for years had led the global crusade to stop the drugs trade by throttling supply, enthusiasm is waning. Some of its states are pursuing their own experiments in decriminalization of marijuana.

It is not yet clear what the future of global drug policy will look like ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in 2016, where member countries will debate the issue.

But this In-Depth seeks to explore the flaws in the current architecture, and document the humanitarian impact – the collateral damage – wrought by those policies in developing countries.

The Stories

Shake-up under way in global drugs policy

Drug policy shift no relief for victims of the war

Balloons and sausages – understanding the global drugs trade

Rethinking Thailand’s war on methamphetamines

Colombia’s fight against the coca trade

Southeast Asia slowly accepting harm reduction

New opium elimination plan in Myanmar

Colombia's corridors of instability and displacement

Making a dent in South Africa’s drug culture

Time for a new poppy policy in Afghanistan

Calls for a ceasefire in the war on drugs

Women paying price of Latin America drug wars


Cesar Gaviria, a former Colombian president, explains why he thinks the war on drugs is a failure.   Most heroin sold in Europe comes from poppies in Afghanistan, and the shortest route is through Iran.