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The war on drugs and social control

In this video, Dr. Sheila Vakharia from the Drug Policy Alliance expands on how the war on drugs and social control are intertwined

The previous step introduced a range of human rights principles and made it clear that the war on drugs and repressive drug polices exacerbate social inequalities. Naomi mentioned in the previous step that there is substantial evidence that the war on drugs has disproportionately targeted black and brown communities, resulting in profound racial injustice.

This session expands on the social inequalities in regards to drug policies. We will hear from Dr. Sheila Vakharia about the impact of the war on drugs on how the police operate in many places and how this is directly related to social control. She provides a specific focus from the USA but this session will also briefly examine a global perspective. Foreign support programs are sometimes only provided if countries agree to implement certain repressive drug policies.

Maybe this resonates with your local context? Please use the comment section to share with your fellow students if you recognise how the war on drugs have led to a social control element in your context.


In Week 1 we addressed the misconception of dependency and talked about ‘rat park’. Below there is a link to a TEDMED talk by Professor Carl Hart, a psychologist and neuroscientist. In this talk “Let’s quit abusing drug users”, Professor Hart reflects back on his childhood, growing up in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood with high rates of drug use.

Carl Hart is a professor of psychology at Columbia University and is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction.

In the previous step, Naomi mentioned Dr. Kojo Koram. He teaches at the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London, and writes on issues of law, race and empire. We have attached a link below to one of his articles in the Guardian, but you can find many more should you wish to explore further.

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Drug Use and Harm Reduction

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