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The importance of PEOPLE who use drugs within drug policy reform debates: Findings from the UK Drug Policy Voices online survey

Published onMay 27, 2022
The importance of PEOPLE who use drugs within drug policy reform debates: Findings from the UK Drug Policy Voices online survey
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The importance of PEOPLE who use drugs within drug policy reform debates: Findings from the UK Drug Policy Voices online survey
Description

Background Drug Policy Voices is a UK-based project designed to integrate the voices and experiences of people who use drugs (PWUD) into debates about drug policy reform. An online survey was conducted in 2020 to understand opinions connected to drug use and drug policy. We used a blended values approach combining Moral Foundations Theory (Haidt and Joseph, 2004; Haidt and Graham, 2007) and MacCoun and Reuter's (2001) four philosophical positions that underpin the drug policy. This paper asks, what values do people who use drugs hold surrounding drug use and drug policy, and what factors predict these values? Methods We used online-purposive sampling and achieved 1217 survey responses, which captured sociodemographic characteristics, patterns of drug use, sourcing and supply of drugs used within the last 12 months, experiences of criminal justice sanctions in connection to drugs, and experiences of alcohol or other drug treatment. In addition, we devised 37 attitudinal questions about drug use and drug policy, which included both progressive and prohibitionist value positions. Results The exploratory factor analysis revealed a six-factor solution that identified important value positions for this respondent group, which are personal autonomy, paternalism 1; paternalism 2; legal injustice 1; legal injustice 2; and neoliberal governance. Age, gender, religious beliefs, political views, identifying as a recreational drug taker, using drugs recently, and having experience of working or studying in the substance use/drug policy field are predictors of these value positions. Conclusion The Drug Policy Voices survey has identified collective values and ideology connected to lived experience that illustrate a clear goal conflict with prohibitionist ideology. PWUD have valuable contributions to make to the policy reform debate, but we must acknowledge that opinions are not formed through drug-related experiences alone. The findings of this research highlight the importance of emphasising the person who uses drugs within participatory approaches.

 

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