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International Drug Policy Unit

Setting the agenda on international drug control

The International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU) is a cross-regional and multidisciplinary project, designed to establish a global centre for excellence in the study of international drug policy.


By utilising LSE's academic expertise and networks, IDPU fosters new research, analysis, and debate of global drug policies.

Working closely with governments and policymakers around the world, it develops innovative evidence analysis and helps design and implement new policies at local, national, regional and international levels.

IDPU reports

After the Drug Wars

The War on Drugs is over. In this report, the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy sets out a framework for the future of international drug policy based on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ending the Drug Wars: Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy

In this report the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy argue that it is time to end the ‘war on drugs’ and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis.

Governing the Global Drug Wars

Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform?

IDPU events and podcasts


Revolutions in the Afghan Desert Part of the LSE Literary Festival 2017 

The story of how vast areas of desert in Afghanistan have been transformed into farming land through the use of revolutionary new technologies in the poppy and opium trade. This event was part of the IDEAS exhibition on the topic, and included insight from satellite imagery.

Drug Policies Beyond the 'War on Drugs'? Part of the LSE Works lecture series

As countries examine new ways of managing drugs beyond the failed 'war on drugs' model, this event explored the future of drug policy and the role of LSE research in driving government policies around the world.

The Legacy of Peace: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

LSE IDEAS was honoured to welcome President of Colombia and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Juan Manuel Santos to the LSE. The President gave insight into the peace process, spoke about Colombia's environmental policies inspired by the Stern Report, and revealed his favourite memory of being an LSE student.

After the Drug Wars report launch

In this event, contributors to After the Drug Wars from the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy set out a new framework for drug control based on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ending the Drug Wars report launch

Members of the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy present the evidence from their report Ending the Drug Wars.

Private events

IDPP regularly hosts high level policy develpoment events. IDPP policy events are international and innovative.

The Economics of NPS Markets: Evaluating Regulatory Options Globally, Vienna

LSE IDEAS and the Government of Switzerland co-hosted this fringe event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held in Vienna in March 2017, on the recent emergence of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) internationally. 

IDEAS-GIZ Innovation Lab on Drug Policies and Human Development, London

The Innovation Lab is an active policymaking event. Working in small groups, global experts and policymakers debate and design policies and interventions in specific areas of drugs-related development. The Innovation Lab is held by LSE IDEAS and the GIZ Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD).

The second Innovation Lab was at LSE in Feburary 2017.

Policy Planning Workshop: Illicit Drug Production and the Search for Peace in Colombia, Bogotá Supported by the British Council Newton Fund.

LSE IDEAS and the Research Centre on Drugs and Security at the Universidad de los Andes held intensive expert workshops and seminars to plan for implementing the peace agreements and design new approaches to drug policy in Colombia in November 2016. They also gave private briefings to congressional representatives and senatorial staffers currently drafting legislative reforms.  

IDEAS-GIZ Innovation Lab on Drug Policies and Human Development, Rome

The first Innovation Lab was held in October 2016 at the LUISS School of Governance in Rome.

Policy Planning Workshop: After the Drug Wars

To accompany the launch of After the Drug Wars, the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy held a two-day policy Planning Workshop at LSE. The workshop opened with a keynote from H.E. Néstor Osorio Londoño, Ambassador of Colombia to the UK. Watch the short film from this workshop on YouTube.

New Challenges in Colombia's Anti-Drugs Policy, Bogotá

LSE IDEAS co-hosted this event held at the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá in January 2016 with the Fundación Buen Gobierno and the Research Centre on Drugs and Security at the Universidad de los Andes. Colombian President Santos and his cabinet were in attendance and were presented with an advance copy of IDPP's After the Drug Wars report.

Policy Planning Workshop: Shifting Drug Strategies in Ireland and the UK

The International Drug Policy Unit hosted a high-level policy planning workshop for civil servants and experts from around the world, with a keynote speech by current Irish Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Adhán O’Ríordáin. View the Twitter debate from this workshop on Storify.

Policy Planning Workshop: Cannabis Legalisation in the United States

This workshop examined the impact of moves by several US states such as Colorado to legalise cannabis consumption, including the policy implications for the rest of the world. View the Twitter debate from this workshop on Storify.

IDPU videos

Different Issues, Different Perspectives policy forum at Universy of the Phillipines

Dr John Collins spoke at this event hosted by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)  at the GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium in the University of Philippines Diliman campus on May 5-6 2017. The keynote speaker was United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

Drug Policy Unit takes part in Hay Festival, Colombia

On Friday Jan 28 2017, Dr John Collins spoke alongside Colombian Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria, pyschiatrist Dr Carlos Restrepo and Uniandes CESED Professor Hernando Zuleta in conversation with NTN24 News host Claudia Gurisatti on the direction of Colombian drug policy under the peace process.

Bloomberg TV Philippines interview on President Duetre's 'war on drugs'

Following new President Rodrigo Duterte declaring a 'war on drugs', John Collins spoke to Bloomberg Philippines about how this "produces more harm than good in most cases".

After the Drug Wars Policy Planning Workshop

How do we build the drugs peace? To accompany the launch of the After the Drug Wars report, the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy held a two-day policy Planning Workshop at LSE. Watch on YouTube.

After the Drug Wars report launch

In this event, contributors to After the Drug Wars from the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy set out a new framework for drug control based on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ending the Drug Wars report launch

Members of the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy present the evidence from their report Ending the Drug WarsPara ver  el video del lanzamiento del reporte.

The Emergence of a Central American Drug Policy

John Collins, spoke to the LSE Central American Student Association (CASA) about Central America's role in international drug policy reform discussions on 18th February 2015. He also discussed current trends and options for drug policy reform in the Central American region and at the international level more broadly.

A Strategy for International Drug Policy Reform

John Collins discussed the prospects for international drug policy reform, cannabis legalisation, the Brownfield Doctrine and flexible interpretation of international treaties at the V Latin American Conference on Drug Policy in Costa Rica, September 2014.

Ending the Drug Wars - Al Jazeera Interview with John Collins

John Collins, Editor of the LSE IDEAS Report Ending the Drug Wars talks to Al Jazeera about how the war on drugs has failed and what the next steps are.

Is There Hope for Reform of International Drug Policies?

In this video twelve world leading drug policy experts address the question: Is there hope for reform of international drug policies?

Why Have International Drug Policies Proved so Resistant to Change?

In this video twelve world leading drug policy experts address the question: why have international drug policies proved so resistant to change?

En Español

History of the International Drug Policy Unit

In 2012, IDEAS released the Governing the Global Drug Wars report. It represented a far reaching examination of the historical evolution of the international drug control system and discussed potential options for reform.

Following this report, the Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy was created to produce a thorough and independent economic analysis of the current international drug control strategy.

The Expert Group's ground-breaking study, Ending the Drugs Wars, was published in 2014. This hugely influential report was named one of the top ten policy studies by a think-tank worldwide.

The IDPP expanded, working with governments around the world and hosting Policy Planning Workshops to research and examine the economic and social scientific evidence on global drug policy.

In 2016, the Expert Group published After the Drug Wars, ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS). The report was presented before its release to the Colombian government at a packed event in Bogota and at an UN meeting in Vienna.

Since then, IDPP has appointed its first Visiting Fellows and Visiting Senior Fellow, held the first IDEAS-GIZ Innovation Lab in Rome, and co-hosted 2016 Nobel Peace Prize winner Colombian President Santos at LSE.

In September 2017, the International Drugs Policy Project became the International Drugs Policy Unit, and transferred to the LSE's United States Centre.

IDPU Teaching

In addition to research with impact, the IDPP is breaking new ground in teaching the next generation of policymakers about the global war on drugs and the evidence base for policy innovation.

LSE 100

LSE100 is the LSE’s flagship interdisciplinary course for undergraduate students, developing all students' abilities to think critically about complex issues. The IDDP is delighted to contribute to this course, the first example in the world of undergraduate students being required to study the war on drugs. 

Students are asked to research policy issues around the war on drugs and present a case study analysing one of the following dimensions of the war on drugs: addiction and health; gender (women/femininities or men/masculinities); imprisonment; poverty and inequality; or race/ethnicity and inequality.

Executive MSc International Strategy and Diplomacy

The LSE IDEAS Executive Masters for mid-career professionals gives students the skills to develop successful strategies and move into professional leadership roles. IDPP's John Collins lectured on Latin America Beyond the Global "War on Drugs"? Regional and International Dynamics.

LSE-University of Cape Town July School 

The LSE and the University of Cape Town (South Africa) July School offers a summer school style programme which allows students to learn about Africa from within Africa, but with a truly global perspective. IDPP's John Collins, Michael Shiner, and Mark Shaw contribute to the Managing Drugs, Illicit Markets and Global Public Health course.             

IDPU People

Project Director

Professor Peter Trubowitz is Project Director of the International Drugs Policy Unit. Professor Trubowitz is Department Head of International Relations and Director of the US Centre at the LSE and Associate Fellow at Chatham House, Royal Institute of International Affairs. 

Executive Director

John Collins earned a PhD from the Department of International History at the London School of Economics. His research focuses on Anglo-American relations and international drug control over the period 1939-1964 and the creation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961. Specifically, his work seeks to locate the issue of drug control both within the context of evolving Anglo-American relations, and the Cold War more broadly.

Policy Coordinator 

Alexander Soderholm is the Policy Coordinator of the IDPU. He completed an MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at the LSE in 2015. Upon finishing his studies, he interned for the UNODC in Tehran, having previously worked in a number of developing countries. His research focuses on the intersection between drugs and development, specifically on scaling up harm reduction in the Middle East.

Head of Teaching              

Michael Shiner is Head of Teaching for the IDPU. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Policy at LSE. Michael has published widely around the place and meaning of illicit drug use in late industrial societies, including patterns of use and desistance; drug law enforcement; and the politics of drug control. He is author of Drug Use and Social Change: The Distortion of History.

Honorary Senior Associate

George P. Shultz is an Honorary Senior Associate of the LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Unit. Mr Shultz’s remarkable career spans academia, business and government. He served as US Secretary of Labor (1969-70), Director of the Office of Management and Budget (1970-72), US Secretary of the Treasury (1972-74) and US Secretary of State (1982-89). Previously he was a professor of economics and MIT and the University of Chicago, as well as Dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Between government roles he served as an executive at Bechtel, eventually becoming its president.

Visiting Senior Fellow

David Mansfield is a Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE IDEAS associated with the International Drug Policy Unit. He currently works as an independent consultant, advising organisations such as the UK Government, the EC, the World Bank, GTZ, and various NGOs on both policy and operational issues with regard to illicit drugs in Afghanistan and on alternative livelihoods in particular. He has worked in overseas drugs and development issues since 1991 and has experience in each of the major drug producing regions of South and South East Asia, and Latin America.

Visiting Fellows

Ana Linda Solano is an IDEAS Visiting Fellow associated with the International Drug Policy Unit, studying illicit financial flows. She is a Colombian Lawyer who currently serves as an Advisor to the Prosecutor General in matters of investigation of criminal economies and asset forfeiture, towards a post-conflict scenario, and related themes.

Mark Shaw is an IDEAS Visiting Fellow associated with the International Drug Policy Unit. He is Director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, a global policy and practitioner network based in Geneva. He is also the National Research Foundation Professor of Security and Justice at the Centre of Criminology, University of Cape Town.

Project Staff

Sallyann Oates is the Administrative Coordinator for the International Drug Policy Unit.

The International Drug Policy Unit is supported by 
Open Society Foundations, the British Council, and the GIZ Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development. 



@JCollinsIDPU @AlexSoderholm @mansfieldintinc Our first public event with the IDPU is in November:…

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We're pleased to welcome our new colleagues @JCollinsIDPU @AlexSoderholm @mansfieldintinc & Sallyann from the International Drug Policy Unit

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