Home > Human rights and the new drugs strategy.

Dillon, Lucy (2017) Human rights and the new drugs strategy. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 63, Autumn 2017, p. 12.

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Internationally, there has been a growing focus on adopting a human-rights-based approach to drug policy. This topic has been covered in previous editions of Drugnet Ireland both in the national and international context.1,2,3,4 With these articles in mind, there are a number of features of the new strategy that would suggest a more human-rights-based approach than in previous strategies: 

  • It takes a health-led approach to drug use.
  • It is underpinned by the values of compassion, respect, equity, inclusion, partnership and evidence-informed.
  • It incorporates human rights in some elements, for example introducing supervised injecting facilities and exploring approaches to the possession of small quantities of drugs. 

However, human rights are only specifically mentioned once in the document. This is in relation to developing a Quality Assurance Framework for the delivery of services (see action 4.2.435).


Since the introduction of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, public bodies are required to take proactive steps to promote equality, protect human rights, and fight discrimination in relation to their functions and powers.4 Therefore, ‘in preparing strategic plans, public sector bodies must assess and identify the human rights and equality issues that are relevant to their functions. These issues must relate to all of its functions as policy maker, employer and service provider’ (p. 4).6 Despite this, a human rights and equality assessment is not reported to have been carried out as part of the methodology used to develop the new strategy.


1 Pike B (2016) Drug users’ human rights. Drugnet Ireland, 58: 6—7. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25958/

2 Pike B (2016) Human rights and drug policy — international perspectives. Drugnet Ireland, 58: 8—9. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25959/

3 Pike B (2016) Service users’ rights. Drugnet Ireland, 58: 29. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25990/

4 Dillon L (2016) Human rights, equality and the National Drugs Strategy. Drugnet Ireland, 58: 9. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25960/

5 Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 20172025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

6   Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (2016) The public sector duty: eliminating discrimination, promoting equality and protecting human rights. Dublin: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27649/

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