An online report has compiled a list of the world’s countries with the most severe drug laws for illicit substance abuse, with penalties ranging from lengthy prison sentences, lashings, and even death.
The drug laws data
The statistics by DrugAbuse.com were compiled from a number of different reports that assessed the most punitive approaches to substance possession and use among individuals in 44 nations.
The “interactive calculator” developed by the website determines the world’s harshest punishments and whether specific nations’ penalties are effective in curbing the use of illicit substances at home. As the data goes to show, stringent punishments are often ineffective in curbing the overall use of drugs.
Longer prison sentences
The data lists ten countries as having the harshest prison penalties for illicit substances. The countries are listed below in order of harshest prison sentences imposed:
- Nigeria (25 years)
- Turkey (18 years)
- United Arab Emirates (15 years)
- South Africa (14.6 years)
- Slovakia (12.5 years)
- Singapore (10 years)
- Russia (9.6 years)
- Cyprus (8 years)
- Lithuania (6.5 years)
- Argentina (6 years)
Nigeria imposes prison sentences anywhere from 15 to 25 years for the use of a number of different substances, including cocaine, opioids, and even cannabis.
However, according to UN data, the West African nation has among the world’s highest usages of illicit substances – including opioids, cocaine, and even cannabis.
Following Nigeria on the list comes Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia: Illicit drug possession in the country carries penalties of anywhere from eight to 20 years.
Next on the list is the United Arab Emirates (four to 15 years) followed by South Africa (up to 14.6 years) and Slovakia (up to 12.5 years.)
The list excludes countries that impose death sentences or life imprisonment.
Most punitive countries
Around 30 of the countries included in the report impose death sentences on individuals convicted of crimes relating to illegal drugs.
These include Malaysia, which uses capital punishment if an offender is caught with over 15 grams of heroin; Bangladesh, which executes those found to possess over 25 grams of cocaine; and Indonesia.
Of nations imposing death penalties on those convicted of drug offenses, Iran appears to be the most stringent: From January to September of this year, the country has executed at least 571 individuals for drug crimes, accounting for roughly 68 percent of the country’s overall execution numbers.
Another method of punishment for drug offenders is physical harm. Iran regularly imposes such punishments for drug offenders, with the convicted parties being subjected to lashings from a 3-foot whip.
Malaysia has instituted a similar form of punishment: offenders in that country are often subject to canings for illicit drug possession and use.
The US: Pretty good by comparison
Compared to the harshest sentences imposed on drug offenders by nations throughout the world, those handed down in the United States are relatively light by comparison.
On the one hand, the use of mandatory minimum sentencing – that is, a minimum of a certain number of years in prison for certain crimes relating to drug use – remains a controversial subject at both the state and federal level.
Yet the United States rarely imposes life sentences in relation to drugs; in fact, those that were imposed were usually for crimes deemed to be more severe than drug use, such as drug trafficking or firearms.
And even sentences for drug trafficking were often much lower than life imprisonment, with the longest sentences being imposed in Mississippi (an average of 121 months, or slightly more than 10 years.)