Addiction practitioners and drug policy reform
As a grantmaking foundation, this presentation will provide an overview of the global drug policy reform movement and discuss how addiction treatment actors contribute to this agenda, with a particular focus on criminal justice and decriminalization. Multiple studies across the world have shown that criminal justice interventions hinder uptake of treatment and the identification and implementation of best practices.
The drug policy reform movement is a global movement comprised of local, national and international NGOs working together. Working towards different direct objectives, but with health and human rights at the center of the overall agenda, the movement includes advocates, activists, practitioners, scientists, community groups, among others.
In surveying the reform movement, it can be shown that addressing addiction is a part of the overall agenda in a number of ways, including promoting evidence-based responses; criminal justice reform: health responses to substance use outside criminal justice; gender-specific responses for women who use drugs; and confronting stigma to reduce barriers. Stigmatization of ‘the drug user’ is used by governments who employ repressive drug policies in key ways. Whether being viewed as a victim or as a problem in society, the “drug user” is used as a reason for heavy-handed, repressive responses which hinder scientific and social responses to addiction.
The presentation will conclude with ideas of how addiction specialists can support better policies and practices and help break barriers by articulating their views on:
- Government reliance on drug courts and other forms of forced treatment
- Impact of criminalization on quality of live and treatment outcomes
- Their limited ability to help patients evolving through criminal justice
The conclusions also caution against the possible negative consequences if the addiction discussion happens outside reform agendas, including:
- Treatment providers become agents of the repressive criminal justice system undermining quality of care.
- Non-medical external actors (judges, police) define “quality” and modality of care