Why Alternative Strategies Must Be Preferred Over Drug Law Enforcement in Canada

An Audit of Drug Strategy review unravelled that Canada ends up spending $454 million on an annual basis on controlling illicit drugs out of which $426 million was allocated to law enforcement activities alone. What is more worrisome, is that the risk reduction from illegal drug use to community health is not significant enough. From a policy perspective, the costs incurred seem to have been insufficiently evaluated. Canada is in need of result oriented outcomes from implementation of nationwide programs that concentrate beyond the Drug Prohibition domain.

The Need to Look Beyond Traditional Drug Policies

That was the precise focus of a research study from the first quarter of 2012 [1], which aimed to create result oriented outcomes in the Health Policy and Public Health domain. Owing to the inappropriate resource allocation towards National Health priorities, channelized largely towards Drug Law implementation and follow up, insights from the research unravel that ‘evidence-based drug treatment programs’, ‘harm reduction strategies’ and ‘opioid substitution therapy’ could prove much more effective in terms of costs as well as outcomes.

Researchers argue that the illegal market, rampant criminal violence and unintended consequences that emerge as an unavoidable effect of traditional Drug Law enforcement are extremely hard to control, and even harder to curtail. Despite this, several drug prevention programs directed towards school children and youth have received Federal Funding towards an ineffective or negative aggregate result in Canada.

More Effective Models Towards Health Improvement

Proponents of Evidence based programs aimed at drug treatment argue that a larger scale implementation effort would definitely yield appreciable benefits in terms at the micro and macro levels in the Canadian population. Medical and non-medical withdrawal programs, addiction management programs, mental health therapies, opioid substitution therapy as well as primary and residential care programs that are re-evaluated and re-launched with a renewed strategy could definitely reap positive results.

In addition, harm reduction strategies including needle exchange and methadone maintenance therapy are excellent candidates as alternative Policy strategies to traditional Drug Laws, in light of the fact that they have seldom been associated with unintended consequences.

Further, owing to global insights about the ineffectiveness of staunch criminalization measures against drugs users, Canadian Health Policy makers would achieve higher success rates in terms of costs and effectiveness by considering addiction as a Public Health issue, rather than just a criminal offence, thereby modifying legislation targeted towards non-violent drug offenders.

Lastly, a regulated drug market in Canada is identified as the need of the day, with regulated legalization of selected drugs. In light of comparative disadvantages from harmful substances (Cannabis is considered less harmful than Alcohol and Tobacco for example), legalization of only certain drugs in selected setting would curtail overall drug use and widespread unintended consequences.

Looking Forward

The period between 2005 and 2007 was noteworthy in terms of Drug related Policy Making for Canadian Policy Makers. While 2005 opened new avenues to culminate scientific evidence towards achieving higher success rates in Health Policy implementation through Canada’s National Drug Strategy, a new anti-drug strategy in 2007 deviated focus completely.

Ever since, evidence based harm reduction programs have not received the required support from Federal offices. Researchers strongly feel the need for putting evidence based policy making in practice in the present day. Canada faces a huge crisis in controlling the cascading effects of illegal drug use, abuse and violence, and unless programs are directed with clear objectives, scientific evidence based approaches and resultant resource allocation priorities, Public Health restoration would become a costly affair in future.


[1] “Improving community health and safety in Canada through evidence-based policies on illegal drugs.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Open Medicine, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2013. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3329118/ >.