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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.


I have long believed a 'war on drugs' to be a simplistic and counterproductive response to a complex policy issue. I am delighted to see LSE take a strong lead on developing a new generation of evidence in this field and harnessing it for use by policy makers as they move beyond the failures of the 'war on drugs' era.

George P. Shultz


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

Bombing Heroin Labs in Afghanistan [PDF] 
The Latest Act in the Theatre of Counternarcotics

In November of 2017, the US initiated a bombing campaign against purported opium processing 'labs' in Afghanistan; United States Forces Afghanistan claimed that these strikes eliminated nearly $80 million of drug money from the Taliban. In this report, David Mansfield draws on high resolution imagery and field research conducted after the first air strikes to question the efficacy of this new campaign and the logic that underpins it. He finds that contrary to official estimates, the campaign has had a negligible effect on the drugs trade and Taliban financing.

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?

Forthcoming IDPU events

Follow IDPU on Twitter for details of forthcoming events.

IDPU past events and podcasts

Past events

New Approaches to Drugs Consumption Policies in Latin AmericaCorporate Event co-hosted with Canning House 
Tuesday, 24 April 2018

In this event, Dr John Collins (LSE IDPU), Winnifred Agnew-Pauley (LSE IDPU) and Dr Pablo Zuleta (CESED Uniandes) examined new research around the efficacy of drug consumption policies from around the world and in Latin America in order to provide an overview of the evidence based policy toolkit available to policymakers as they examine the next steps for drug policies in the Americas.

Drugs and (dis)order: Building sustainable peacetime economies in the aftermath of war - Launch event for new Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project 
Friday, 23 March 2018

Wars on drugs have been declared by leaders across countries who are concerned about the impacts of illicit drugs on security, development and health. This event launched a new GCRF-funded project aimed at establishing a new approach to drug policy by inviting researchers in three of the world’s largest drug-producing countries – Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar – to discuss ways of better addressing the challenge of transforming illicit economies.

Private events

IDPU regularly hosts high level policy development events. IDPU policy events are international and innovative.

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

LSE 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. 

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 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 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.  

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 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 IDPU'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.


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 an 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 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.

IDPU videos

After the War on Drugs in Ireland - January 2018

After the War on Drugs in Ireland After the War on Drugs in Ireland
Since 2015 the LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU) has been working with local partners the Ana Liffey Drug Project to help foster a new era of progressive drug policies in Ireland.


Different Issues, Different Perspectives policy forum at University 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 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, LSE 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 Drug Wars, was published in 2014. This hugely influential report was named one of the top ten policy studies by a think-tank worldwide.

The IDPU 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, IDPU has appointed its first Visiting Fellows and Visiting Senior Fellow, held the first 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 IDPU 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 IDPU 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. IDPU'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. IDPU'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.

Project Staff

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

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 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 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.

Senior Associate

Mark Shaw is a Senior Associate 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.

Senior Research Associates

Joanne Csete is on the faculty of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (New York, USA) where she teaches health and human rights.  She was previously the deputy director of the Global Drug Policy Program of the Open Society Foundations and the founding director of the HIV Program at Human Rights Watch (New York).  She worked on HIV and other health programs in sub-Saharan Africa for many years, including in the UNICEF Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa.  She is an associate editor of the journal BMC International Health and Human Rights and a member of the UN Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights.  She was the lead author of the 2016 report of the Lancet Commission on international drug policy and public health.

Dr Caitlin Hughes is a Senior Research Associate with the LSE International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU). She is a criminologist and Senior Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Australia. She works as part of the multi-disciplinary Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) which seeks to improve Australian drug policy by identifying what works, translating research evidence and engaging directly with policy makers. Dr Hughes' prime focus is improving understanding of the effects of different legislative regimes and law enforcement approaches, and the role of law enforcement relative to other aspects of drug policy. Read her full bio.

Research Associates

Emile Dirks is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research examines how local state and community actors collaborate to implement drug harm reduction services and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs aimed at socially vulnerable communities in Yunnan Province, China. Previously, Emile was a visiting researcher at Yunnan University's School of Public Administration, where he was funded by a Chinese Government Scholarship provided through the Canada-China Scholars Exchange Program.Emile is also a graduate of the London School of Economic's MSc China in Comparative Perspective program (2009-2010).

Luiz Guilherme Paiva holds an MSc and PhD in criminal law at the University of São Paulo. He was the head of the Secretariat for Drug Policy at the Ministry of Justice of Brazil, and coordinated the country's position for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS 2016). Previously, he was Chief Advisor to the President of the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil and a member of the National Council for Criminal and Penitentiary Policy, responsible for overseeing prison conditions in the country. He is currently the coordinator for Legislative Affairs at the Brazilian Institute for Criminal Sciences. His current research interest focus on criminal justice reform and drug-related overincarceration, and the legal implications of drug policy and development issues on urban settings. Besides his participation as a member of Brazilian delegation on several UNODC, OAS and regional commissions, Luiz is a regular contributor as an independent expert on international forums on drug policy, including the GIZ, MFLF and UNODC Expert Group Meeting on Alternative Development, and the LSE and GIZ "Innovation Lab on Drugs and Development".

Jay Pan is a Research Associate at IDPU. He is also a research student at the LSE and works on illicit drug markets in Latin America as well as anti-slavery in colonial Africa.

Christian Schneider is an illicit drug market and drug policy analyst currently working at the Swiss Federal Office of Police. In his role, he assists the Swiss government and Swiss police forces in understanding how illicit drug markets affect the crime situation in Switzerland. He also serves as a member of the International Police Advisory Group of the Law Enforcement and HIV Network (LEAHN). Christian holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Zurich, an MSc in Security Sector Management from Cranfield University and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Zurich. His research interests focus on how states address the challenges of transnational illicit flows, with an emphasis on how these flows are measured and monitored, how government agencies adapt to them and why states create international frameworks to solve the problems created by them.

Nick Werle is a research associate at IDPU. He is also a law student at the Yale Law School, where he works on US drug policy and the international law of drug control. He has also contributed to the IDPU’s work on Irish drug policy reform. With the support of the UK’s Marshall Scholarship, Nick received an MSc in risk and finance from the LSE and MSc in economic policy from University College London.

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


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