DRINKING AND DRUGS
Our division seeks to understand the social problems surrounding drug use (both illicit [e.g., marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine] and licit [e.g., prescription, alcohol] drugs). This includes the harms linked to drug use (e.g., job loss, HIV, divorce), the harms surrounding drug markets (e.g., violence), the harms caused by the criminalization of drugs (e.g., loss of welfare, incarceration, access to needles), and the harms associated with policy responses to drugs (drug testing, stop and frisk, drug raids). Through our research, we unpack the complexity of drug use patterns, including how individual, social, political or economic factors affect drug using decisions and harms. We also seek to inform those drug policies that primarily focus on the individual factors linked to licit and illicit recreational, chronic, and problematic drug use. These policies tend to stigmatize those who use drugs and unjustly punish people of color, the poor, and those otherwise marginalized. Our division promotes a world in which these harms and the stigma of drug use are minimized. The creation, application, and enforcement of drug laws and the development and implementation of drug policies should be informed, socially responsible, unbiased, humane, and democratically based rather than coercive, repressive, and unjust.
1. Build an international network of drug researchers including both scholars and activists who are dedicated to examining and then discussing, sharing, and disseminating information on both licit and illicit drug use.
2. Promote responsible professional scholarship about the use and abuse of licit and illicit drugs in order to provide forums for academic and social activism.
3. Increase involvement, discussion, and debate, and strive for consensus-building among drug policy associations, foundations, government officials, harm reduction organizations, people who use drugs, and researchers.
4. Create public forums that involve citizens in critically discussing and debating the current criminal approach to drug use in our society and in reformulating drug laws that produce disparities in the criminal justice system. Such forums must give attention to empirical studies on drug use and analyze with a critical lens those that are generally either disregarded or selectively used by politicians and legislators.
5. Protect civil liberties regarding drug use for all citizens in our society.
6. Increase involvement and participation of people who use drugs, people with lived experience of drug use, and people with criminal (in)justice involvement in substance use research and policy building.
7. Increase cross-cultural sharing of information concerning approaches to drug use. Carefully examine and discuss with government officials the outcomes of drug policies in socially liberal, moderate, and conservative countries. Such cross-cultural information sharing would better inform the goal of reformulating our drug policies regarding what is and is not appropriate for residents of the U.S.
8. Continue to recognize and act on the importance of good teaching and responsible research about drug use. Our students in college and university classrooms across the U.S. represent important populations of people who are entitled to learn the latest information about licit and illicit drug use or abuse from a broad range of perspectives in order to understand and render their opinions about our current and future approaches to drugs.
9. Increase public understanding of the “social determinants of health inequalities” that increase drug use problems including life course stresses, social exclusion, access to healthcare services, unemployment, and lack of social support, transportation, and housing (Marmot, 2005).
Our biggest challenge in working toward reformulating U.S. drug policy is the current lack of commitment of and collaboration with government officials, policymakers, legislators, and politicians, and the lack of agreement—including conflicting ideologies and perspectives—in U.S. drug policy-making. Beginning with public forums on the use or abuse of drugs, more collaboration, discussion, and debate with often segmented institutions in our society (such as the criminal justice system and the medical establishment) is sorely needed. We need to communicate with top government officials regarding the urgent need to set priorities, establish collaboration with drug research foundations that are not politically biased against drug users in an a priori manner, and fund ongoing analyses by sociologists of states that are deviating from the Federal Government’s approach to drugs and decriminalizing, legalizing, or medicalizing recreational use by adults. Separate public forums on decriminalization and legalization should be created with the goal of achieving maximum participation by all U.S. citizens.
As scholars dedicated to the pursuit of drug use knowledge, the members of this division can learn from each other as we continually confront the schism between academics and others regarding drug use. To become more effective scholars and activists, we must continually confront both supportive and conflicting views about drug use and champion the goal of creating a society where adult drug use reflects personal choice, responsibility, and conscious decision-making free of moral and ideological biases that continually contradict the high number of licit and illicit drug users in our society.
Division mission statement edited in 2022 by David Frank, New York University School of Global Public Health, Drinking and Drug Division Chair (2022-2024).
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