What are the effects of criminalisation?

Recent overviews of the international evidence regarding the effects of criminalising drug possession for personal use have reported the following key findings:

  • The level of drug use in a country is not directly related to the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, i.e. a tough enforcement  regime does not reduce drug use.
  • Criminalising drug use increases the health risks to which people who use drugs are exposed.
  • Criminalising drug use creates social risk because society tends to see people convicted of drug offences as unproductive criminals.  This stigmatisation can lead to discrimination including reduced support for health-led responses.
  • Punitive drug policies have a disproportionate impact on already vulnerable communities, and increase the health risks for entire populations