Healthy Body

‘breaking the taboo’ offers alternative to the war on drugs

Day one of the One Young World Summit closed with a late night screening of ‘Breaking the Taboo’, a powerful documentary looking at the failings of the global war on drugs. Sundog Pictures was co-founded in 2012 by Sam Branson and Johnny Webb as a vehicle for positive change in the world.  


The pair produced the documentary which tracks the worldwide trends in the black market narcotics trade, and the implications of this trade within the countries involved in both the production and supply of the drugs in circulation worldwide. In addition, the documentary offers an insight into the traditional war on drugs approach and the oversights of those in charge of drug policy.


The documentary offered an innovative alternative message  to the traditional prohibition campaign, which has yielded little success in reducing the fallout from the illegal drug trade in the past. The step to prohibit the use, supply and production of narcotics on a global scale is an outdated one, according to the findings of the Global Commission on Drugs, as highlighted in the cinematic work. Branson reiterated the necessity of taking ‘a more humane approach’ to the destructive nature of addiction and the wider effects which the drug trade has.


There are examples of varying drug policies to be found. Switzerland and Portugal were presented as models to be studied as both have moved away from the heavy handed policing methods implemented in the majority of countries. Portugal has decriminalised drug use, replacing the custodial sentences with a board of health care staff and social welfare offices to begin the process of rehabilitation with those caught in possession.


Switzerland too has taken measures to reduce the risk of HIV infection for those who inject narcotics, namely the introduction of clean needle centres. These hygienic stations, as one delegate pointed out in the question and answer session, also provide ‘grassroots education in the reduction of drug use’ which can only be seen as a positive step.


Branson and Webb, praised those in power who have introduced such progressive narcotic policies. Yet the documentary dealt also with the negative implications of administrations which refuse to change. The American global war on drugs was flagged as one which causes untold death and devastation. The excessive force and military personnel used in narcotic enforcement in Colombia and Mexico have plunged the innocent population into a living hell. The documentary made it clear that ‘the war (military intervention) created the situation, not vice versa’


In producing ‘Breaking the Taboo’, Branson and Webb turned their focus to the American prison system which serves only in the exclusion of those convicted of drug-related felonies from ‘housing and education support, and employment’ forcing them to ‘return to the drug trade’. Branson is adamant that this ‘injustice’ is beneficial to no one, and that legalisation would reduce somewhat the social issues rife in American drug culture.

When quizzed on the inspiration behind this alternative message on drugs and drug policy, Branson explained that the ‘message is a product of trying to solve the problem’.