Public opinion and drug policy in Australia: Engaging the ‘affected community’
Version of Record online: 16 AUG 2012
© 2012 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs
Drug and Alcohol Review
Volume 32, Issue 1, pages 60–66, January 2013
How to Cite
[Public opinion and drug policy in Australia: Engaging the ‘affected community’. Drug Alcohol Rev 2013;32:60–66], , .
- Issue online: 10 JAN 2013
- Version of Record online: 16 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 25 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Received: 29 MAR 2012
- Colonial Foundation Trust
- National Health and Medical Research Council
- Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
- drug policy;
- public opinion;
- illicit drug;
- consumer participation
Policy should be informed by the people it directly affects; however, the voices of people who use illicit drugs have been marginalised from drug policy debate. In Australia, the majority of survey data regarding attitudes to drug policy are collected at the population level and the opinions of people who inject drugs remain underexplored. This study aimed to investigate how people who inject drugs perceive drug policy in Australia and whether these opinions differ from those of the broader general population.
Drug-related policy questions were drawn from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) and added to the 2011 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Survey (n = 868). The results were analysed for the full IDRS sample and by recent drug use. IDRS responses were compared with the general population using the 2010 NDSHS.
There was a high level of support among IDRS participants for measures to reduce the problems associated with heroin, but heterogeneity in levels of support for legalisation and penalties for sale/supply across different drug types. Differences between the opinions of the IDRS sample and the NDSHS sample were identified regarding support for harm reduction, treatment, legalisation and penalties for sale/supply.
These findings provide a springboard for further investigation of the attitudes of people who use illicit drugs towards drug policy in Australia, and challenge us to conceptualise how the opinions of this community should be solicited, heard and balanced in drug policy processes.