Beyond the rhetoric: Towards a more effective and humane drug policy framework in South Africa

Charles Parry, Bronwyn Myers


The March 2011 Anti-Substance Abuse Summit in Durban continued the outdated approach to policy around illicit drugs in South Africa. It missed opportunities for discussing how to impact significantly on the health and social harms associated with problematic drug use and reduce the burden of drug-related cases in the criminal justice system. The government needs to move away from the political rhetoric of a ‘drug-free society’ and start the real work of formulating and implementing an evidence-based drug policy that learns from the experiences of other countries around decriminalising drug use; takes into account differences in the harms resulting from different classes of drugs; adopts a rights-based, public health approach to policy; and identifies a single (accountable) agency that has the authority to oversee policy implementation. In addition, consensus is needed on the short-, medium- and long-term priorities for drug policy implementation. The 17 evidence-based drug policy strategies identified by Babor et al. may serve as a useful starting point for policy development.

Authors' affiliations

Charles Parry, Medical Research Council

Bronwyn Myers, Medical Reserch Council

Full Text



Drug policy; decriminalisation

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(10):704,706.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-08-11
Date published: 2011-09-27

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