Making drug policy together: reflections on evidence, engagement and participation

Int J Drug Policy. 2014 Sep;25(5):952-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.04.014. Epub 2014 Apr 29.


This commentary considers the relationship between evidence, engagement and participation in drug policy governance. It argues that the use of various forms of evidence (for example, statistical data and service user narratives) is critical for meaningful stakeholder engagement and public participation in drug policy, as well as effective policy design and implementation. The respective roles of these different kinds of evidence in consultation processes need to be better understood. It discusses the limits of evidence, which it suggests is rarely conclusive or decisive for drug policy. This is partly because of the incompleteness of most research agendas and the lack of consensus among researchers, but also because issues in drug policy are inherently contestable, involving considerations that lie outside the competency of drug policy specialist as such. In particular, this is because they involve normative and evaluative issues that are properly political (for example, about the relative weight to be accorded to different kinds of harm and benefit). It concludes by supporting calls for a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between evidence, engagement and politics than is implicit in the term 'evidence based policy'. It also argues that we should view the inherent contestability of drug policy not as something that can or should be resolved by 'objective' evidence, but as a source of vitality and creativity in policy development and evaluation.

Keywords: Consultation; Engagement; Evidence; Evidence-base; Politics.

MeSH terms

  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Government
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Policy Making*
  • Politics*