Legal Aspects of Drug Addiction

  • Malcolm Lader


Human societies are regulated by social rules which can be formalised as laws. The ­principles and philosophy upon which laws are based often differ fundamentally from country to country. The law is so closely involved in the regulation of drug addiction because, firstly, the disorder follows the epidemiological model of a communicable, ­‘infectious disease’, and needs containment. Secondly, drug addiction imposes enormous personal, social and economic burdens. The law may also govern the conduct of research into the problems of addiction, both animal and human studies. The debate concerning prohibition or liberalisation of drug legislation has been conducted fiercely for many years and has raised many issues.

The legal situation has unfortunately tended to become polarised with experts and lay people backing up their arguments with purblind opinions rather than firm factual evidence-based reasoning. For example, those enforcing the law may regard any use of illicit drugs as problematic or fundamentally undesirable; those seeking to legalise some forms of drug misuse consider that most such drug use does not raise problems: rather, the problems arise from the illegal designation of much widespread recreational drug use. A major difference between the two sides relates to the effectiveness or otherwise of drug enforcement measures. This is a contentious subject and opinions diverge radically. Whatever the differences, both sides agree that drug use is dangerous. They differ in how to lessen harm. One side advocates legislation, the other a medical approach. Research should be directed towards monitoring outcomes of legal measures to see if their effects in practice attain ­pre-specified goals, say lessening of overall usage or of a particular type of harm.


Illicit Drug Drug Addiction Harm Reduction Civil Code Drug Misuse 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychiatryKings CollegeLondonUK

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