Friday, July 13, 2007

Finding Common Ground: the aims of drug policy

Extract 7 from Transform's upcoming publication: After the war on Drugs, Tools for the Debate, this description of the aims of drug policy follows from the discussion of the principles of drug policy covered in extract 6

The Aims of Drug Policy

As developed by Transform, the core aims of drug policy, which can only be properly addressed once the current prohibition of drugs is dismantled, are:

  • To minimise the prevalence of problematic drug use and related health harms, including drug related death.

Although this sounds uncontroversial, it actually challenges a central tenet of current drug policy: that any illicit drug use is unacceptable / illegal, and / or that non- problematic drug use does not exist. However, this assertion ignores the reality that problematic drug users, defined by the need for social or criminal justice intervention, are in reality only a small fraction of the drug using population. Transform argues that non problematic use should not be the primary concern of Government, beyond efforts to prevent progression into problematic use, which can be supported on public health grounds if there is evidence that they are effective.

  • To minimise disorder, violence and social nuisance related to drug use

  • To minimise criminal activity associated with the production and supply of drugs

These two aims are linked; however, there is a clear distinction between public order problems caused by intoxication (overwhelmingly by alcohol) and the far more significant problems caused by illegal markets.

  • To minimise drug-related harm to vulnerable groups, young people and families

Whilst the ethics of dictating personal behaviour to adults is a tricky area, for non-adults there are clear arguments for programmes to prevent early drug use as a public health initiative and as part of a wider harm reduction approach.

  • To ensure adequate provision of support and drug treatment for people seeking help

Some may argue that drug users don’t deserve care or should not be allowed to receive the benefit of non-drug-using taxpayers’ money. It’s a potentially thorny area (as recent debates on restricting certain treatments/procedures to alcoholics/smokers have shown). It can be avoided by highlighting the positive cost-benefit analysis of treatment versus continuation of chaotic drug use.

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6

Online July 2007...
print copies in the office on Monday!


Zendogsnuts said...

I am one of thoose people who is open to persuasion of the need for change. It is obvious the system is not working in its curretn legaslative prohibtionist format.However what is needed to move the debate forward is more than just critiques of the "other sides " arguments. Danny Kushlick et al need to posit a model that transfom/he sees would make things better. We can then begin a rela debate..... I actually think this is the hardest part of the task. alcohol has alegal frameowrk and yet that is certainly very problematic and not a suitable paanacea for drugs. incedntally I do wish you all well and let teh real arguemnts/debate start with this.

Steve R said...

thanks zen

Transform are working in collaboration with various leading drug policy thinkers from around the world to produce a new document titled 'after the war on drugs, blueprint for change' to be published next spring. It will detail how regulatory models will work for differenct drugs in different localities, the legal regulatory frameworks for each, how they can be implemented and evaluated. It will include alcohol and tobacco, regulation of which, i agree, is far from perfect although unlike illegal drugs, improving.

law reform is not a panacea to the drug problem. It will only deal with the problems created by prohibition. I would argue, however, that it puts us in a far better position to deal with the social problems that underly problematic use.

There are some excellent report linked in the policy/key reports section on the transform website (ntably by HOBC and KCBA) that detail how regulatory models will opperate. they are amongst our collaborators for the blueprint project.