Redefining the Goals of National Drug Policy

Recommendations from a Working Group

by Peter Reuter, Jonathan P. Caulkins

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This paper discusses what the goals of national drug policy have been and suggests an alternative set of goals. The past emphasis on use reduction is found wanting. Total harm related to drugs can be viewed as the product of use and harm per use. Thus, reducing use usually serves to reduce harm. However, in some cases, use reduction programs may increase harm per use so much that they increase overall harm even as they succeed in reducing use. Hence, use reduction goals can be usefully augmented with the explicit objective of reducing the total harm created by the production, distribution, consumption, and control of drugs. Numerous programmatic recommendations flow from this approach.

Originally published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 85, no. 8, August 1995, pp. 1059-1063.

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