Harm reduction, medicalisation and decriminalisation

Philip Bean

in Legalising drugs

Published by Policy Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9781847423757
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302698 | DOI:
Harm reduction, medicalisation and decriminalisation

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This chapter discusses harm reduction, medicalisation and decriminalisation, the three reformative, rather than radical features of the debate. These fit more easily into those proposals that soften or mitigate the impact of prohibition. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Working Group, harm reduction refers to policies and programmes that attempt primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of mood-altering substances to individual drug users, their families and their communities. Medicalisation means legally prescribing drugs to users, the user presumably having been assessed by a member of the medical profession, who also decides on the dosage and the drug to be prescribed. Those favouring medicalisation say that the prescribing of drugs to addicts has a number of advantages, one of which is that prescribed drugs do not contain dangerous impurities. Decriminalisation, or depenalisation as it is sometimes called, is often used as synonymous with legalization, since to remove legal controls is also to legalise. Decriminalisation is about assessing legal powers and legal sanctions, and where appropriate reducing or removing them.

Keywords: harm reduction; medicalisation; decriminalisation; health; drug; legalisation; social consequences; economic consequences

Chapter.  10119 words. 

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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