Attitudes of injecting drug users toward the legal status of the major illicit drugs

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Date Commenced:
2012
Project Supporters:

Australian Government Department of Health

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
Dr Michelle Tye
NHMRC Early Career Fellow
Project Main Description: 

Injecting drug users (IDU) are frequently interviewed regarding drug use, risk behaviours and criminality, but far less frequently about their attitudes towards drug-related issues. This study aimed to determine IDU attitudes, and correlates of attitudes, towards continued prohibition, decriminalisation or legalisation of the major illicit drugs.

Rationale: 

Injecting drug users (IDU) are frequently interviewed regarding drug use, risk behaviours and criminality. Users are far less frequently asked about their attitudes towards drug-related issues.

Aims: 

To determine IDU attitudes, and correlates of attitudes, towards continued prohibition, decriminalisation or legalisation of the major illicit drugs.

Design and Method: 

Structured interview with 300 IDU who had injected on at least a weekly basis over the preceding 12 months.

Findings: 

Methamphetamine was rated the most harmful of the five illicit substances, and cannabis the lowest. By far the highest level of support for legislative change was for cannabis, with only 8.7% supporting continued prohibition. While there was majority support for change to the legal status of heroin, the modal position was for decriminalisation. Support for changing the status of the three illicit psychostimulants was low, with the majority believing that methamphetamine (63.3%), cocaine (53.3%) and MDMA (53.3%) should remain illegal. Demographic characteristics were largely unrelated to attitudes. Lower levels of perceived harm were associated with increased likelihood of support for legalisation of all substances. Recent use was positively related to support for both decriminalisation and legality of heroin, but was not associated with views on other substances. Higher lifetime polydrug use was associated with support for the legalisation of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA.

Output: 

Darke, S. and Torok, M. (2013), Attitudes of regular injecting drug users towards the legal status of the major illicit drugs. Drug and Alcohol Review. 32(5): 483-488. doi: 10.1111/dar.12050.

Benefits: 

IDU expressed nuanced views on different substances. In policy debates, care should be taken not to speak for IDU by imputing their beliefs. It is clear that the fact that a group uses illegal drugs does not necessarily imply that they support changes to their legal status. 

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
Completed
Year Completed: 
2013