Scientists speaking up: BC AIDS expert

published on July 22, 2010 by Andy Ivens

The Province - Scientists speaking up: BC AIDS expertScientists under attack for denouncing the global war on drugs are fighting back, says a University of BC associate professor on the front lines of the battle.

Despite mountains of scientific evidence proving the prohibition on drugs such as heroin is a failure, governments in Canada, the U.S. and around the world continue to ignore the health and social harm caused by their antiquated policies, Dr. Evan Wood told The Province on Wednesday.

Wood, director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, is co-author of the Vienna Declaration, which calls on the world’s politicians to let scientific evidence guide their policies on illicit drugs.

More than 11,000 people have signed the declaration, which first appeared on the Internet two weeks ago at,and was published this week in The Lancet, a respected medical journal.

“It has been a real outpouring of consensus from the scientific community,” Wood said in a phone interview from Vienna, where he is attending the 18th International AIDS Conference.

He called the war on drugs “just a global catastrophe.”

“Up until now, the scientific community hasn’t really been outspoken about it,” he said.

“Scientists have been attacked by groups seeking to maintain the status quo.”

He referred to the British government’s firing last year of Prof. David Nutt from his post as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for questioning the government’s policy of cannabis prohibition.

He finds the support from scientists for the Vienna Declaration “overwhelming.”

“One in 100 adults in Russia is already HIV-infected because of heroin use,” said Wood, chairman of the committee that wrote the declaration. “It’s an injection-drug-related epidemic. Needle exchange is illegal.”

Wood points out the declaration stresses gang violence in cities such as Vancouver is directly related to drug prohibition.

Wood said Canadians are fed up with having drug-addicted criminals victimize them.

“But the average person doesn’t understand that the tough-law approaches being proposed by the Harper government will . . . worsen the problem,” he said.

Reprinted under license from The Province.

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