Home > First international conference on drug policy.

Pike, Brigid (2007) First international conference on drug policy. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 22, Summer 2007, p. 4.

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Between 22 and 23 March 2007, 49 drug policy researchers from around the world met in Oslo for the inaugural meeting of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP).1 Conference participants heard some 30 papers, organised around the following themes.

1.         Developing harm indexes for policy decisions

There is increasing interest in developing summary measures that express the severity of drug problems. For example, the UK Home Office has published an index for measuring outcomes of drug policy decisions.2 Sandeep Chawla of the United Nations Organization on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented a paper on constructing policy-relevant harm indexes.3 A number of other papers addressed various aspects of drug-related harm, including the specific nature of supply-side and demand-side harms and the evaluation of harm-reduction interventions.

2.         Estimating government expenditures on drug policy

As governments spend an increasing amount of money on the effort to reduce drug use and related problems, there has been increased interest in developing effective ways of measuring the scale and composition of drug policy.4 Speakers at the conference on budgets and costs included Luis Prieto of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

3.         Modelling the effects of specific policies and programmes

There have been substantial advances in dynamic systems approaches, complex systems science and systems thinking in recent years. The application of these approaches to drug policy has the potential to allow close examination of the dynamic interactions between interventions, of the trajectories of drug use and harm, and of models within the policy-making process. A number of participants in the Australian Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) presented papers on their work developing the evidence base for policy, developing, implementing and evaluating dynamic policy-relevant models of drug issues, and studying policy-making processes.5

4.         Assessing the impact of harm reduction and substitution treatment initiatives

Harm-reduction practices are not necessarily directed only towards reducing drug-related harm to the individual; they are motivated also by public health and public safety concerns. The overall impact of harm reduction and substitution treatment on the epidemiological situation as well as on the drug market has less often been the object of research. Among contributors on this theme was Mary O’Shea of Merchants Quay Ireland, who presented a paper on the politics of safer injecting facilities in Ireland.6

Drugs and public policy

In addition to the contributions on the four themes above, several papers addressed aspects of the policy-making process, including the philosophical underpinnings of drug policy, bridging the gap between researchers and policy makers, and the dynamics of drug policy and drug research.

The conference heard the first public report on the Drugs and Public Policy Project (DPPP). The DPPP was initiated in November 2004 as a collaborative effort by an international group of addiction scientists to improve the linkages between addiction science and drug policy. Seed funding was provided by the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA). Current collaborators include Griffith Edwards, John Strang and David Foxcroft of the UK; Peter Reuter, Jonathan Caulkins and Keith Humphreys of the USA; Isidore Obot (Nigeria and WHO); Maria Elena Medina Mora (Mexico); Ingeborg Rossow (Norway); Jurgen Rehm (Canada); and Robin Room (Australia). It is intended to produce a book, modelled on Alcohol: no ordinary commodity,7 which was sponsored by the World Health Organization and the SSA. The new book will include epidemiological data on the global dimensions of drug misuse, as well as a critical review of the scientific evidence relating to drug policy at the local, national and international levels.

International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP)

The ISSDP was formally constituted by the participants at the conference. A Board was elected, with Professor Peter Reuter, USA, as president, and Associate Professor Alison Ritter, Australia, as vice-president. It is planned to hold the second annual conference of the ISSDP in Lisbon in April 2008.


1. For further information on the ISSDP and the conference, visit www.issdp.org

2.  MacDonald Z, Tinsley L, Collingwood J, Jamieson P and Pudney S (2005) Measuring the harm from illegal drugs using the Drug Harm Index. Home Office Online Report 24/05. Available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/rdsolr2405.pdf

3. In its 2005 World Drug Report, UNODC presented an index at the national level that attempted to capture differences in the sum of consumption, trafficking and production problems. The report is available at  http://www.unodc.org/pdf/WDR_2005/volume_1_web.pdf

4. See, for example, papers from a symposium ‘What drug policies cost’, published in the journal Addiction (101) in 2006.

5. For further information on the Drug Policy Modelling Program, visit www.dpmp.unsw.edu.au

6. A version of this paper may be found at M O’Shea (2007)‘Introducing safer injecting facilities (SIFs) in the Republic of Ireland: “Chipping away” at policy change’. Drugs: education, prevention and policy.14/1: 75–88.

7. Babor T, Caetano R, Casswell S, Edwards G, Giesbrecht N, Graham K et al. (2003) Alcohol: no ordinary commodity. Research and public policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 22, Summer 2007
April 2007
Page Range
p. 4
Health Research Board
Issue 22, Summer 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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