This paper highlights the complex and contested relationship between drugs and development policies globally. It uses a recent experience in Thailand to showcase the link between drugs and development policies while highlighting the difficult international terrain for forging a common United Nations (UN) position. It examines the challenging transition underway within Thailand as practitioners of rural development policies in drug crop affected regions seek to translate the lessons of traditional ‘alternative development’ to urban and borderland areas affected by drug trafficking, arguing that many of the underlying principles are the same. It provides a practitioner-led overview of the recent experiences of Thailand and the global drug debates. It then takes a step into the literature on peacebuilding, examining the possible positioning of drugs and development debates relative to the field of peacebuilding studies. It concludes by highlighting the numerous areas of overlap between the new drugs and development debates and existing peacebuilding discussions.