Antony Loewenstein wants to set things straight about the global war on drugs.
The author of Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs has an intimate knowledge of the toll it has taken, having travelled from the killing fields of Honduras in Central America to key drug shipment routes in West Africa, as well as the streets of major Western cities in countries like Australia, the UK and the US where illicit drugs are ubiquitous.
His conclusion? The prohibitionist policies that governments around the world have spent trillions of dollars to enforce aren't about ending drug use and addiction at all, and they don't work.
"Drug use has never been higher and the violence [fuelled by the drug war] has never been worse, around the world," Mr Loewenstein said.
"[The war on drugs] been a complete failure, and yet one could argue that the drug war has been a complete success in targeting the most vulnerable and the poor, which in my view is what the war has always been about."
In his book, which he will launch in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Loewenstein traces what he calls the deadliest war of modern times, from its origins in Washington in 1971 through to 2019.
In the nearly 50 years since then-US president Richard Nixon unleashed the drug war by declaring drug abuse "public enemy number one", millions have died around the world as violence and addiction have surged, but nothing has stopped the supply of drugs or the demand for them.
One battleground that has drawn recent global coverage is the Philippines, where Amnesty International described a "large-scale murdering enterprise" targeting the urban poor as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's drive to stamp out drug abuse. Some of the other key global drug war locations that Mr Loewenstein visits, like Central America and West Africa, are largely hidden from international eyes because events there go mostly unreported.
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Though it has one of the highest per-capita rates of illicit substance use in the world, the front line of the drug war is less obvious but still deadly in a Western country like Australia, where the public perception of drug use has shifted dramatically in recent decades.
Mr Loewenstein said many of the victims of the drug war in this country had died not simply as a result of their decision to take drugs, but seeing as drugs were illegal, there was usually no way of knowing what was in illicit substances.
That's why he advocates for large-scale drug policy reform including the legalisation and regulation of all drugs, and why he applauds the ACT for being home to the country's first pill-testing trials.
"What has changed with the pill-testing debate [in Australia] is that people see their own kids in the young people that are dying," Mr Loewenstein said.
"It's humanised the issue when the victims are middle-class kids and not people that just get dismissed as junkies in the street.
"The vast, vast majority of Australians - and people everywhere actually - who take illicit substances, do it with no problems.
"They have normal lives and normal jobs. They are healthy. They may smoke a joint or go out to a club and take an ecstasy pill or whatever. It's become a very, very normal part of society, for better or worse."
Mr Loewenstein acknowledged that even in a legal and regulated market, there would still be problems and people wouldn't all "just group-hug the next day", but the money raised by governments could be used for health and education programs.
Another thing he would love to see is a push for ethically sourced drugs, after the majority of respondents to the 2019 Global Drug Survey said they would be willing to pay more for ethically sourced cocaine.
"What a mature society would acknowledge is that drugs have always been part of society and they always will be," he said.
"In my view, the key aim of harm minimisation needs to be finding ways to assist people who have problems with drugs rather than demonising the majority of people who never have any issues with drugs and take drugs normally, yet don't often think about who is suffering in places like Colombia to get those drugs."
Mr Loewenstein hoped that through his book, he would show people that legalisation and regulation around the world was a more realistic way to end the war on drugs.
"Current drug policy is only guaranteeing that more people will continue to die," he said.