The war on drugs is a war on us: young people who use drugs and the fight for harm reduction in the Global South

M. J. Stowe, Rita Gatonye, Ishwor Maharjan, Seyi Kehinde, Sidarth Arya, Jorge Herrera Valderrábano, Angela Mcbride, Florian Scheibein, Emmy Kageha Igonya, Danya Fast

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


In the Global South, young people who use drugs (YPWUD) are exposed to multiple interconnected social and health harms, with many low- and middle-income countries enforcing racist, prohibitionist-based drug policies that generate physical and structural violence. While harm reduction coverage for YPWUD is suboptimal globally, in low- and middle-income countries youth-focused harm reduction programs are particularly lacking. Those that do exist are often powerfully shaped by global health funding regimes that restrict progressive approaches and reach. In this commentary we highlight the efforts of young people, activists, allies, and organisations across some Global South settings to enact programs such as those focused on peer-to-peer information sharing and advocacy, overdose monitoring and response, and drug checking. We draw on our experiential knowledge and expertise to identify and discuss key challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for youth harm reduction movements, programs and practices in low- to middle-income countries and beyond, focusing on the need for youth-driven interventions. We conclude this commentary with several calls to action to advance harm reduction for YPWUD within and across Global South settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Pages (from-to)43
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2024


  • Drugs
  • Young people who use drugs
  • Human rights
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • Harm reduction
  • Drug policy
  • Global South
  • Drug Overdose/prevention & control
  • Public Policy
  • Humans
  • Harm Reduction
  • Adolescent


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