Is ‘evidence-based’ drug policy a myth or reality?

First to the inspiration for this post:


Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

invites Updaters to a


(sponsored by Mary Porter (MLA))

Tuesday 6

February, 2007 at 12.30 pm

in the Reception Room, ACT Legislative Assembly
Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra City


Evidence-based drug policy – myth or reality?
– the ways in which research evidence is used or not used in policy
making processes


Alison Ritter, Associate Professor, National Drug and Alcohol
Research Centre and Director, the Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP)

Alison will outline the “ideal model” – where evidence drives policy,
then describe some of the more realistic models about how drug policy
making happens,
and point out where evidence fits in.   She will use a number of
examples to illustrate.

(The DPMP is funded by the Colonial Foundation Trust.)

A cuppa and refreshments will be available.
Enquiries to: 02 6254 2961

This will be of interest to all people involved in the drug and
alcohol sector but will be of special interest to those involved in
drug policy.

A copy of the flyer to pin on your notice board can be downloaded

Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
61 (0)2 6254 2961

This looks like an interesting afternoon’s discussion, and it got me to thinking about ‘evidenced-based’ – what is it about current research that prevents widespread acceptance of its findings? Lets use two hypothetical examples from different sides of the fence:

1. A widespread study is conducted on the impact of abstinence-based drug education in schools that shows the approach is superior to any other forms of drug education in terms of long term drug usage rates amongst 12-24 year olds.

2. Another study on operation of safe injecting rooms shows that there are lower death rates and no increase in usage rates in communities have such a centre.

In both these hypothetical cases they are evidence-based, but you can be fairly certain that both pieces of evidence are not going to be accepted as legitimate by sections of the AOD community. In such cases, how do you develop evidence-based drug policy except on an ad-hoc basis?