Will drug use rise? Exploring a key concern about decriminalising or regulating drugs

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This report argues that this rationale for continuing with an enforcement-led approach to drugs is poorly supported by empirical research, and that alternative policies – in particular the decriminalisation of personal drug possession or the introduction of legally regulated drug markets – can produce better outcomes while also avoiding dramatic increases in use. It also makes the case that overall levels of drug use are not an accurate indicator of levels of drug-related harm, and should not be considered as such.

Given the pace at which real-world alternatives to criminalisation and prohibition have taken hold in recent years, and the extent to which drug policy reform has become a mainstream issue, there is now no shortage of claims and counterclaims about how different policies affect levels of drug consumption. This report attempts to cut through this debate, addressing the widely held concern about increased use by reviewing the evidence acquired since the modern international drug control framework was established in the 1960s, and looking at what is known about other approaches to managing a range of substances. Ultimately, the intention is to provide a representative overview of what is known about the relationship between drug policy, drug use, and related harms.