University Of Tasmania

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Moving Beyond the War on Drugs? The Rhetoric and Reality of Harm Minimisation in Australia

posted on 2023-05-22, 19:19 authored by Meadows, E, Kizimchuk, Z, O'Reilly, J, Isabelle Bartkowiak-TheronIsabelle Bartkowiak-Theron, Varney, R
Aside from the issue of illegal networks and illicit markets, compelling arguments have been put forward that substance use is not primarily a law enforcement matter; rather, that at its core, this is a public health issue. For decades significant resourcing has been directed at the enforcement of drug laws. There is now much evidence of a pronounced shift in what has historically been dubbed the “war on drugs” (Singer, 2018; Chatwin, 2018; Grecco & Chamber, 2019); part of that shift has focused on addressing a range of stigmas and obstacles for those attempting to access services and seek help. Within the critical discourse on the role of law enforcement and public health in alcohol and other drug issues, there is value in exploring the issues of decriminalisation and prevention from the point of view of harm minimisation . A focus for this discussion is the appraisal of two specific case studies - cannabis for personal use, and pill testing. Using these case studies we consider what evidence supports a health promotion approach to preventing harms from use of alcohol and other drugs. In this chapter; which focuses specifically on drugs; for ease of argument, we aim to reveal what can be learned about reducing the health burden on society, reducing the resource burden for law enforcement agencies, and aim to explore how law enforcement and the health sector can work together to achieve this result.


Publication title

Law Enforcement and Public Health: Partners for Community Safety and Wellbeing


I Bartkowiak-Theron, J Clover, D Martin, RF Southby and N Crofts






School of Social Sciences


Springer Nature Switzerland AG

Place of publication




Rights statement

Copyright Springer Nature Switzerland AG

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Determinants of health; Law enforcement