Illicit drugs policy consists of decisions regarding the best ways to:
- reduce the supply of drugs and the criminal activity associated with drug use (law enforcement);
- prevent the commencement of drug use by young people (prevention);
- help existing drug dependent people (treatment); and
- reduce harms to drug users and the community (harm reduction).
These four 'streams' - law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction - form the foundation of good illicit drug policy. There is much more to be known about what works within each stream, in which circumstances and in what combinations. Evidence is also lacking about the optimal balance of government investment across the four streams.
DPMP is undertaking innovative and sound research to improve the evidence base across these streams.
Melbourne Injecting Drug User Cohort Study (MIX)
Research team: Paul Dietze, Damien Jolley, Campbell Aitken, Mark Stoove (Burnet), Thomas Kerr (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS), Matthew Hickman (University of Bristol)
Rationale and aims:
This study uses a mix of objective and self-report data to:
- examine typical trajectories of injecting drug use in Australia and determine risk and protective factors for users in the health, social and psychological domains.
- establish a framework for the evaluation of interventions with people who inject drugs (PWID) across a variety of health and social outcomes.
- compare the effects of methamphetamine injection with the effects of heroin injection.
Methods/designThis is a prospective cohort study of PWID. In Melbourne, baseline interviews on demographics, drug use history and market access patterns, treatment history, criminal involvement, and current psychological, social and health states were conducted with 688 people who inject drugs over the period November 2008 – November January 2010. Information and consent collected at baseline allows linkage to a variety of objective datasets such as the National Death Index and Ambulance Victoria’s ADIS system. These linkages will provide objective information on harms associated with injecting drug use over time. We are also conducting direct follow-up of the established cohort to determine changes from baseline over time. Follow-up interviews commenced in late 2009 and have been progressing well using modified versions of the baseline questionnaire. The particular focus is upon determining changes in drug preferences (including drivers for these changes), treatment utilisation and experience, periods of abstinence, experience of harm and the identification of risk and protective factors for these outcomes, including service utilisation and drug use patterns. The study is using protocols for locating study participants successfully developed and implemented in other Australian studies of IDU. We will also be able to determine the effects of any interventions or services to which the participants are exposed by comparing those cohort members exposed to the intervention to those who have not been so exposed.
Aitken, C., Kerr, T., Hickman, M., Stoove, M., Higgs, P., & Dietze, P. (2012). A cross-sectional study of emergency department visits by people who inject drugs. Emergency Medical Journal
, early online edition.
Expected completion dateongoing
Structural analysis of the Australian heroin drought
Research team: Jonathan Caulkins
(Carnegie Mellon University), Peter Reuter
(University of Maryland) and Martin Bouchard (Simon Fraser University)
Overview: The disruption of the Australian heroin markets that was recognized starting in late 2000/early 2001 was the most severe and prolonged of any documented disruption of a major drug market in a developed country. Before this “drought”, heroin use was associated with the great bulk of drug-related harm in the country, and key indicators such as overdose rates fell precipitously and have never returned to their pre-drought levels. Hence, there is considerable worldwide interest in Australia to understand what caused this singular “success”. The research team has tapped a variety of novel data indicators to develop a coherent empirical argument concerning likely causes, with results being written up as three separate papers: one analysing the causes of this event, a second describing what one would expect to see from a severe market disruption (to avoid a replication of specious arguments and misunderstanding concerning this event), and a third analysing Canada’s heroin markets, which have played a prominent role in the literature arguing that AFP actions could not have been an important driver of the drought.
More information: email@example.com
Development of common metrics for drug policy evaluation
Research team: Alison Ritter
Rationale and aimsMeasuring the success or otherwise of policies is fundamental to continuous social, economic and community improvement. For complex social problems, such as drug abuse, it is a difficult task. One challenge in the drug policy area is that it transects the multiple domains of health, law enforcement and education. The policy interventions themselves address different components of the drug problem: law enforcement is focussed on reducing the supply of drugs (through seizures of drugs and dismantlement of criminal networks); health interventions are focussed on reducing drug use by users (through treatment), and reducing the harms associated with drug use (through harm reduction programs); education is focussed on preventing the uptake of drugs. Each of these policy interventions are important contributions to Australia’s response to drugs, but are measured by different outcomes. In reporting on the success (or otherwise) of these different policies, one single measure of impact or outcome would be highly beneficial. A single measure would enable governments to report with confidence the impact of their areas to Treasury and to the community. A single measure would also be a highly valuable research tool that could be used to compare policy options.
The drugs field has been engaged in work across the globe on composite Drug Indexes. There is the UK Drug Harm Index, the UNODC Illicit Drug Index, the New Zealand Drug Harm Index and the AFP Drug Harm Index. The work is difficult and has many methodological and conceptual challenges.
This project has explored the establishment of a single measure of impact – an ‘Australian Drug Harm Index’.
Key findingsThis project has included a number of different types of activities:
- two grant applications (a postdoctoral fellowship and an NHMRC partnerships grant), both of which were not successful but represented important steps in conceptualising the methodologies, and (in the case of the latter) in bringing various government departments together to discuss the Index;
- An international workshop was held in March 2009 at UNODC in Vienna, where scholars met to discuss the various methodological challenges associated with Index work.
- A review of the New Zealand Drug Harm Index was published (Matters of Substance)
- Consultation and advice provided to the Victoria Police: The Victoria Police developed a Drug Harm Index to inform strategic policing at a local command level. DPMP provided advice on methods and data sources and reviewed documentation for the Victoria Police research team.
A number of critical issues have been identified in this work:
- Data availability is a key driver of possible inclusion in an Index
- There are few, if any, measures of public amenity/safety
- There are few, if any, measures of the economic consequences associated with criminal activities such as money laundering
- Pain and suffering and productivity and welfare payments are another area where data are lacking.
In addition, prevalence and consumption estimates, required for such work, are outdated. Australia is not alone in struggling to deal with significant data gaps.
Implications for policyIf a Drug Harm Index were successfully developed, it would enable decision-makers to assess and weigh up different policy options and program choices. In the absence of a common metric, valuing different types of drug interventions (eg: health, law enforcement) is complicated.
Implications for researchThe development of drug indexes requires considerable resources and a diverse multi-disciplinary team.
Ritter, A. (2009). Methods for comparing drug policies - the utility of composite Drug Harm Indexes. International Journal of Drug Policy, 20, 475-479
Ritter, A. (2008). Where angels fear to tread. Matters of Substance, 18(4), 18-20.
Ritter, A. (2009,March). A workshop on illicit drug harm indexes. Workshop at the 3rd Annual International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, Vienna, Austria.
Ritter, A. (2008, April). The development of an Australian drug policy index. Presentation at the 2nd Annual International Society for the Study of Drug Policy Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.
Ritter, A. (2008, February). Measuring for successful drug policy. Presentation at the 2008 Parliamentary Drug Policy Roundtable, Wellington, New Zealand.
Ritter, A. (2008, February). The Drug Policy Modelling Program Harm Index. Presentation at the Interagency Committee on Drugs (IACD), Wellington, New Zealand.
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Promoting compliance, 'recovery' and 'desistance': Comparative case studies of pre-sentence diversion schemes for drug misusing arrestees in Australia and England
Research team: Tim McSweeney
(University of London, NDARC)
Advisors: Caitlin Hughes
, Alison Ritter
(NDARC) and Paul Turnbull (Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London)
Rationale and aimsBoth Australia and England have long established traditions of diverting drug misusing detainees and arrestees to treatment dating from the late 1970s/early 1980s. A common objective for some of these forms of diversion is to secure the compliance of arrestees to meaningfully engage with a therapeutic intervention aimed at addressing their substance misuse, and so reduce or eliminate their involvement in ‘drug-related’ crime.
Using two models of pre-sentence diversion as case studies – one ‘voluntary’ scheme in Australia (the New South Wales Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment – MERIT - program), the other a compulsory model in England known as ‘Tough Choices’, this research seeks to better understand (in broad terms):
- How different participants in these settings define and measure ‘success’ in relation to the constructs compliance, ‘recovery’ and ‘desistance’
- To what extent the schemes deliver on these outputs and outcomes
- How aspects of policy, program design and delivery impact (either positively or negatively) on the effectiveness of the schemes
- How processes might be refined and adapted in order to further improve outcomes.
Methods/designThe research is utilising both quantitative and qualitative methods and making use of a range of primary and secondary data sources, including:
- linkage of existing administrative health and criminal justice datasets to assess the extent of compliance, ‘recovery’ and ‘desistance’ (a total of nine datasets across the two sites); and
- in-depth qualitative interviews with purposively sampled stakeholders, staff and arrestees to illuminate and better understand these processes and mechanisms (over 50 such interviews have been completed to date, but fieldwork is on-going).
Results to dateEmerging findings from the English case study indicate no evidence of additional value from the ‘Tough Choices’ policy in terms of increasing treatment uptake or reducing the rate, frequency and seriousness of known offending amongst users of heroin and/or cocaine. On-going analyses of qualitative interview data with stakeholders and staff also identify a number of important perceived failings in theory, policy and implementation.
In light of the British government’s recent commitment to expand the policy nationwide from April 2011, a key challenge appears to be the need to develop strategies for improving: (i) compliance with the ‘Tough Choices’ process; (ii) subsequent rates of engagement with treatment services; and (iii) offending outcomes for a large proportion of the target population.
Expected completion date: August 2013
More information: email@example.com
Drunk, high, or sober? How do alcohol and illicit drug prices affect young Australians' plans for Saturday night?
Research team: Jenny Chalmers, David Bright (NDARC) and Rebecca McKetin (ANU)
Rationale and aims Widespread concerns about the dangers of binge drinking by young Australians led to the National Binge Drinking Strategy in March 2008 and a 70 per cent increase in the excise accruing to RTDs (Ready–to-Drink alcoholic beverages) a month later. Missing from debates about the use of pricing policy to reduce binge drinking was recognition of the possibility that young Australians will replace their alcohol consumption with illicit drugs. Nor was there evidence of a clear understanding of the implications of alcohol price for alcohol consumption in subgroups of the Australian population.
Many young people regard alcohol and illicit drugs as part of the repertoire of products that facilitate socializing through intoxication. This has become a pressing public policy issue because the practice costs society dearly. Economic research supports increasing the price of alcohol to reduce harmful drinking; largely ignoring the possibility that alcohol will be replaced with illicit drugs.
This project aims to identify how young Australians will respond to price increases in particular types of alcohol (e.g., will they drink cheaper forms of alcohol, increase their use of illicit drugs or reduce their alcohol/drug consumption) and to determine which alcohol pricing policies would minimise excessive consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs on a typical night out.
Methods/designThis project uses the internet to access a representative sample of 2,400 young Australians. It asks, using an experimental behavioural economics approach, how they would adjust their alcohol and illicit drug use over a “night out” in response to hypothetical changes in the prices of alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy.
Carragher, N. and Chalmers, J. (2011), What are the options? Pricing and taxation policy reforms to redress excessive alcohol consumption and related harms in Australia. Crime and Justice Bulletin. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2011, June). Minimum pricing of alcohol: Hard to swallow or easy to take? Presentation to NDARC Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2011, August). Which way forward? Weighing up the evidence base of pricing and taxation levers to redress alcohol-related harms in Australia. Poster presented at the Annual NDARC Symposium, UNSW, Sydney.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2012, June). The alcohol policy landscape: Pricing levers to redress excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. A poster presentation at the 35th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism Scientific Meeting June 23-27, 2012.
Sunderland, M. (2012, September). Typologies of alcohol consumption on a Saturday night. School of Public Health and Community Medicine Annual Symposium, UNSW, Sydney. 21st September.
Chalmers, J. (2012, October). The effect of two policy options - alcohol tax reform and minimum pricing of alcohol - on young Australians’ Saturday nights”. NDARC Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney.
Expected completion dateMarch 2013
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracking cocaine trends in Australia
Research team: Jenny Chalmers, Caitlin Hughes (NDARC)
Rationale and aims There is growing law enforcement evidence that, in comparison with the period spanning 2002-03 to 2006-07, the supply of cocaine to Australia is relatively high (Hughes, Chalmers et al., 2011). This expansion in supply appears to have coincided with diversification in the trafficking routes to and through Australia (beyond the traditional site of entry - Sydney). Comparison of the general population level 2007 and 2004 NDSHS data and analyses of data from the more timely targeted IDRS and EDRS surveys suggests parallel shifts in the geographical distribution of use. It also appears that the recent expansion in supply has been absorbed by the non-injecting population of cocaine users. This project will use NDSHS data to determine the public health implications of the perceived expansion in the supply of cocaine in Australia since the period spanning 2002-03 to 2006-07.
This project aims to determine whether the 2010 patterns of cocaine use in the general population are consistent with 2007 patterns and how the patterns have evolved over the past decade.
Methods/designOur intention is to pool data from the 1998, 2001, 3004, 2007 and 2010 waves of the NDSHS survey and explore changes in the population of cocaine users associated with the recent expansion in supply. In particular we are interested in Australia-wide and jurisdictional change in the prevalence, frequency and method of cocaine use.
Expected completion dateDecember 2012
More information: email@example.com
The conservative shift in drug policy (?): evidence and implications
Research team: Kari Lancaster and Alison Ritter (NDARC)
Rationale and aims It has been argued that the increased influence of conservative advocacy groups and the impact of the political social conservatism of ‘The Howard Years’ has led to a conservative shift in Australian drug policy, away from harm minimisation and towards a zero tolerance model (Mendes, 2001, 2007). While some commentators have argued that Howard’s ‘Tough on Drugs’ policy ‘overturned’ the harm minimisation framework (Bessant, 2008), others suggest that there has been a ‘disconnect’ between the political strategy of zero tolerance, and the policy practice of harm reduction (Wodak, 2004). The situation is far from clear-cut. Understanding the extent of a conservative shift in either the political strategy (rhetoric) or in policy decision-making (practice) has important implications for the future of drug policy and the interventions and responses that are funded by government.
The aim of this project is to systematically examine if there has been a conservative shift in Australia’s approach to drug policy since 1985. In doing so, we will explore how drug policy is understood, the narratives which shape policy development over time, what the ‘problem of drugs’ is represented to be and the role of stakeholders in shaping these understandings.
Methods/designUsing discourse analysis, we examine whether the construction of meaning in Australia’s drug policy has differed over time, from 1985 to the present. We take all of the iterations of the National Drug Strategy, as well as all drug-related federal parliamentary inquiries and associated reports and submissions, from 1985 to the present as our texts for analysis. This allows for systematic tracking of the issue over time, with a particular focus on discursive elements which have come to be understood as characteristic of the ‘Australian approach’ to drug policy, including harm minimisation, balance, partnerships and evidence-informed policy.
In relation to policy decision-making (i.e. practice rather than rhetoric), we have yet to establish the best methodological approach.
Expected completion dateDecember 2012
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Public opinion and drug policy: engaging the 'affected community'
Research team: Kari Lancaster and Alison Ritter (NDARC) in collaboration with NSW Users and AIDS association
Rationale and aims Public opinion can play an important role in determining policy and informing political processes (Matthew-Simmons et al., 2008). However, the majority of public opinion data regarding attitudes to drug policy in Australia is collected at the broader population level. The ‘affected community’ notion suggests that policy should be directly informed by the people who it affects – however we do not know, for example, if drug users have similar or different views to the broader population about fundamental drug policy questions such as the role of needle and syringe programs, treatment and drug legalisation. This stymies opportunities for policy-making to be informed by those it most directly affects.
This project aims to investigate how drug users themselves perceive drug policy in Australia.
Methods/designThe project will use a mixed methods design, analysing quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data. The quantitative survey formed a supplement to the 2011 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) questionnaire, with the inclusion of drug-related policy questions drawn from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). A sentinel sample of almost 1000 people who inject drugs in Australia were asked about their levels of support for various drug policy measures, legalisation, and penalties for the supply of illicit drugs. Responses will be compared to the 2010 NDSHS.
Qualitative interviews with people who inject drugs will be undertaken in collaboration with NUAA, in Sydney. The nature of the questions to be asked will be derived from the quantitative results: that is, we will use the quantitative results as the springboard for detailed qualitative discussions with drug users.
Results to dateQuantitative data collection is complete. Interviews will take place after the completion of the quantitative component of this study in late 2011/early 2012, with a view to analysis and dissemination of results by mid 2012.
Expected completion dateDecember 2012
‘Trafficking’ or ‘personal use’: Do regular drug users understand Australian drug trafficking laws?
Research team: Caitlin Hughes, Alison Ritter (NDARC) and Nicholas Cowdery (UNSW, Faculty of Law)
Rationale and aims All Australian states and territories have adopted legal thresholds for drug trafficking, over which possession of an illicit drug is deemed ‘trafficking’ as opposed to ‘personal use’. Yet the extent to which regular drug users understand the laws and their implications has been subject to limited academic scrutiny. Unmasking user knowledge is increasingly imperative as Hughes and Ritter (in press) have provided partial but troubling evidence that regular users can consume up to twice the trafficable threshold for personal use alone. They may thus unwittingly place themselves at risk of a drug trafficking charge.
This project will start to explore regular drug users’ levels of awareness and accuracy of knowledge about drug trafficking laws across Australia, taking into account different populations of users and different legal contexts.
Methods/designUser perceptions about legal thresholds for trafficking will be assessed amongst two national samples of Australian regular drug users: namely, participants in the 2012 Ecstasy and related Drug Reporting System (EDRS) and 2012 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). Perceptions knowledge will then be compared against the current drug trafficking laws.
Expected completion dateFebruary 2013
More information email@example.com
Drug trafficking thresholds and the sentencing of MDMA offenders in NSW
Research team: Caitlin Hughes, Alison Ritter (NDARC), Erica Franklin (UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and Nicholas Cowdery (UNSW, Faculty of Law)
Rationale and aims Recent evaluation of drug trafficking thresholds across Australia (Hughes, Ritter, Cowdery and Phillips, in press) has shown these legislative tools place particular groups of drug offenders at risk of an unjustified charge and conviction for an offence of drug trafficking. Moreover, MDMA users and traffickers in NSW are at the highest risk of unjust and disproportionate sanction. This project will critically examine the sentencing of MDMA offenders in NSW (and a comparator group) to elucidate to what extent MDMA offenders are subject to more punitive sentencing patterns as a consequence of current drug trafficking thresholds.
Expected completion dateDecember 2013
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Trafficking in multiple commodities: Exposing Australia's poly-drug and poly-crime networks
Research team: Caitlin Hughes, Jenny Chalmers (NDARC), David Bright (UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and Michael McFadden (McFadden Consultancy)
Rationale and aims It has been long recognised that illicit drug traffickers can and do trade in multiple drugs. For example, more than ten years ago, Australian law enforcement agencies highlighted the “convergence of criminal networks and, concomitant to this, poly-drug trafficking” and the challenges this may bring to drug law enforcement and the broader community (Gordon, 2001, p. 22). Yet, research and policy tend to focus on single illicit drug markets alone.
International evidence suggests that poly-drug (as opposed to single-drug) traffickers may pose a greater threat to society, due to a heightened capacity to capitalize on or respond to shifts in demand or supply. It is also hypothesized that, mirroring general economic principles of supply diversification, such offenders may also be more inclined to engage in other forms of criminal activity (including money laundering and importation of illegal firearms), and that doing so will further their competitive advantage. This research will explicitly test these hypotheses by providing the first systematic examination of Australia’s poly-drug and poly-crime traffickers. It will also estimate the extent and nature of poly-drug and poly-crime trafficking and implications for policing such trafficking within Australia.
- To explore how product diversification is managed in a high-level Australian multi-commodity drug trafficking network: including inter-sections between drugs (heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, precursors etc.) and between crimes (drugs, money laundering, illegal firearms etc.
- To estimate the proportion of Australian traffickers connected with high level importation of more than one drug, and any changes in the extent and nature of Australian poly-drug importations over the past fifteen years
- To generate and compare profiles of Australian poly-drug traffickers and mono-drug traffickers, including their potential harmfulness to the Australian community
- To build research and law enforcement expertise to tackle Australian poly-drug commodity traffickers
Methods/designThree distinct but complementary lenses will be used to examine these issues:
- Social network analysis of a national high-level poly-drug and poly-crime trafficking network
- Trend analysis of Australian Federal Police (AFP) aggregate data on illicit drug/precursor importations from 1998-2012
- Quantitative and qualitative analysis of AFP unit record data to examine differences between Australian poly-drug and mono-drug trafficking networks: including network size, value of importations and extent of links with organised crime.
Expected completion dateJune 2014
More information email@example.com
Economic Evaluation comparing Centre-based Compulsory Drug Treatment with Community-based Methadone Maintenance Treatment in Hai Phong City, Vietnam
Research team: Thu Vuong
Advisors: Alison Ritter
, Marian Shanahan
(NDARC), and Robert Ali (University of Adelaide)
Rationale and aims The aim of this research is to analyse the cost-effectiveness of the centre-based compulsory treatment modality (CCT) with community-based Methadone maintenance treatment modality (MMT) in Hai Phong City of Vietnam. The research will provide the first evidence for an indigenous economic evaluation for compulsory drug treatment centres. This is important for Vietnam and other similarly situated countries in Southeast Asia who invest significant resources in this type of treatment. Results from this research could be used to facilitate dialogues with the Government of Vietnam to guide their decision making on drug treatment. This is critical given that Vietnam became a middle-income country in 2010 which will result in a significant decrease in international donor funding over the next few years.
Methods/designThe research will follow internationally recognised guidelines for costing substance use treatment interventions and standard economic principles for cost estimations and analysis of cost-effectiveness of the two drug addiction treatment modalities. The research is comprised of 2 parts:
Part A focuses on primary data collection and analyses of costs and effectiveness of CCT. Data on the costs to Government and participants who are placed into the treatment will be collected. To measure the effectiveness of the CCT modality, 280 participants will be interviewed about their drug use and drug-related problems at baseline while in the CCT centres, and at 3, 6 and 12 months after discharge.
Part B focuses on secondary data analysis of existing data from other studies of MMT in Hai Phong to derive costs and effectiveness of MMT. Data from two separate studies (2009 MMT costing study and 2009 MMT effectiveness study) will be used for the secondary data analysis. Primary data of opportunity costs for MMT patients (144 participants) will also be collected.
The analysis of data within and across Part A and Part B will provide scientific evidence on the costs and effectiveness of each treatment modality as well as the comparative cost-effectiveness between the two treatment modalities.
Results to dateEthics approval has been granted. First interview of participants is expected in November 2012. One paper was published as the foundation for the research.
OutputsVuong, T., Ali, R., Baldwin, S., & Mills, S. (2012). Drug policy in Vietnam: A decade of change? International Journal of Drug Policy. 23
Expected completion date2015
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategic advocacy and drug policy: A case study of the ACT overdose management program
Research team: Kari Lancaster
and Alison Ritter
(NDARC) in collaboration with Members of the Expanding Naloxone Availability in the ACT Committee (ENAACT)
Rationale and aims Researchers, health professionals, consumer groups and advocates in the field have repeatedly called for widespread availability of naloxone for people who inject drugs and potential overdose witnesses, to reduce the incidence of fatal overdose. This is just one example of where Australia has (in recent years) lagged behind other countries in implementing evidence-informed harm reduction programs. By documenting and analysing the successful establishment of a recently introduced policy to make naloxone available to potential overdose witnesses in the ACT (the “Expanding Naloxone Availability in the ACT (ENAACT) program”), we aim to illuminate the mechanisms and conditions for successful strategic advocacy processes which can be applied not only to naloxone provision in other jurisdictions, but also to other important IDU drug policy issues.
The aim of this project is to document and analyse advocacy and policy development processes using a case study of the recently introduced “ENAACT program”, by documenting the experiences and reflections of key experts and advocates involved in the initiative. This unique initiative is an example of successful policy advocacy by a circumscribed group (the Expanding Naloxone Availability in the ACT Committee) guided by the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy (a consumer group), and therefore as a case study has the potential to provide a rich source of new knowledge about drug policy advocacy.
1. How were advocacy strategies implemented to effect change in drug policy, and what were the conditions for success?
2. To what extent did the accumulation of knowledge among specialists contribute to the policy agenda and alternatives?
3. How did ‘webs of influence’ or ‘advocacy coalitions’ influence the policy process?
Methods/designThe study involves semi-structured interviews with key individuals associated with the ACT initiative (primarily members of the ENAACT Committee). It is anticipated that 10 key informant interviews will be conducted, in order to sample stakeholders from the different professional organisations who contributed their expertise to the initiative. Interviews will be conducted via telephone or in person (where possible) by a member of the research team. It is expected that the semi-structured interview will take 60 to 90 minutes to administer. Interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed. Preliminary data analysis undertaken by the research team will draw on public policy theories of the advocacy process including Sabatier’s ‘advocacy coalition framework’, Kingdon’s ‘multiple streams’ and Heclo’s ‘issue networks’ as the theoretical framework, to examine to what extent the documented experiences and reflections of the key informants conform to these theories or diverge from them.
The project design is fundamentally a collaborative one – while Kari Lancaster and Alison Ritter (DPMP researchers) will conduct the interviews and prepare a preliminary analysis of the data, we have engaged all participants in the process of data interpretation and analysis. To this end we will hold meetings open to all of the research participants to discuss the data and review the interpretation. In this way, all the participants will have ownership over the results and the understandings that emerge.
Results to date The project has already received approval from the UNSW Human Research Ethics Panel (UNSW HREA Ref: 9_12_002). Interviews will be conducted with participants from late July 2012. After transcription, we will arrange for all participants to meet and collaboratively analyse the data (with a view to final analysis in 2013).
Expected completion date2013
Young people’s ideas about responding to alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
Research team: Alison Ritter, Francis Matthew-Simmons, and Kari Lancaster (NDARC) in collaboration with Jozica Kutin and Andrew Bruun from Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS)
Rationale and aims Drug and alcohol use by young people is a significant concern to the community. There is currently a range of initiatives aimed at better understanding the drug use of young people; however the understanding of young people’s opinions and ideas about policies and initiatives aimed at reducing the harms caused by the use of these substances has been limited.
The project aims to investigate the opinions of young Australians about how the government and community should respond towards drug and alcohol use.
Methods/designThe project utilises an online survey to collect data from young people. The questions refer to the likely consequences of alcohol and drug use, drug laws (legalisation/decriminalisation), and a range of different interventions such as treatment and education. Respondents are also asked which sources of information about drugs they prefer, and what should be done about new and emerging substances. The project aims to collect information from 2,000 young Australians.
Results to dateThe project is currently in the recruitment phase (www.youthdrugsurvey.com.au).
Expected completion dateApril 2013
More information email@example.com
Australian government spending on drugs (drug budgets)
Research team: Alison Ritter
, Marian Shanahan
(NDARC), Ross McLeod (UNSW), Katrina Grech and Rachel Ngui (formerly NDARC)
Rationale and aims The aim of this project is to update and further develop the Moore (2005) Australian drug budget. As in the earlier Moore project, our study examines both federal and state and territory government spending in response to illicit drugs. Proactive spending is the amount directly spent by government on illicit drug policy and is broken down into the areas of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, law enforcement and interdiction.
Developing an up to date Australian drug budget is useful in that it allows us to 1) examine what policies the government is currently employing in relation to illicit drug use 2) examine the funding mix of these policies; and 3) compare our drug budget and spending mix with other countries. Using an approach similar to the one outlined above, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has committed to producing estimates of government expenditure on ‘drug related issues’ and to developing comparable estimates for all the EU countries (Ballotta and Bergeron 2006; Ramstedt 2006; Rigter 2006; EMCDDA 2008). Both the USA and the UK also produce government spending estimates.
- To estimate spending by the Australian federal, state and territory governments between 2009/10 using publicly available documentation and expert opinion.
- To classify spending into the areas of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, law enforcement and interdiction to increase our understanding of the current policy mix.
Methods/designIt is important that each spending estimate is calculated using the same method. To this end, we plan to use a top-down, rather than bottom-up accounting method to estimate total spending within each category. The actual amounts calculated are less important than the relative distribution among policy pillars.
The steps involved include:
- Identify all types of interventions and areas of spending. Define those that are ‘direct’ spending.
- Categorise interventions into Prevention, Treatment, Enforcement, Harm Reduction
- Using top-down accounting methods, calculate spending
- Use expert opinion to ensure results are concordant with expert views.
Initial decisions have been made as to what is to be included. For example, in this report the expenditures on the consequences of drug use such as the criminal consequences i.e. property crimes, will not be included.
Results to dateData collection is ongoing.
Expected completion dateDecember 2012
Centre of Research Excellence in Injecting Drug Use
Research team: Margaret Hellard, Paul Dietze
(Burnet Institute), Alison Ritter
(NDARC), Dan Lubman (Orygen Youth Health Research Centre), Stuart Kinner (Burnet), Greg Dore, Lisa Maher (NCHECR), Gail Williams (Univ of Queensland), David Moore (NDRI), Robert Power (Burnet)
Rationale and aimsInjecting drug use is a behaviour strongly associated with other highly marginalised characteristics such as imprisonment, blood borne virus infections, homelessness and mental illness. This Centre for Research Excellence is focussed on injecting drug use and draws together a number of innovative studies currently underway and provides a mechanism for research translation.
The aims of the CREIDU are to:
- Improve understanding of IDU by building on existing studies to develop innovative research designs.
- Explore IDU’s use of health services, the factors that place them at risk of harm and structural and functional barriers to improved health.
- Identify and test new interventions.
- Investigate the link between reduced recidivism and health outcomes after release from prison.
- Determine the types and structures of services to improve IDU’s access to HCV treatment, sexually transmitted infections, mental illness and drug use.
- To translate research findings from the CRE into new and more effective policy and practise.
- Train and support promising new researchers to take on the challenges of the field.
This Centre of Research Excellence represents a network of outstanding Australian researchers. Led by Burnet Institute it includes researchers from the University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and Curtin University. The Centre for Research Excellence provides opportunities for post-graduate and post-doctoral students to engage in research on IDU, funds the collaborative network amongst researchers in this area and concentrates on translation of research into policy and practise.
Expected completion date2015
or visit the CREIDU website here
Literature review of the use of simulation as an aid to policy decision making
Research team: Alison Ritter
(NDARC) and Louise Salkeld (formerly NDARC)
Rationale and aims In order to inform our work in the field with policy makers, we conducted a review of the literature on the uses of simulations and modelling in the context of policy decision making. The purpose of the project was to summarise the literature on the ways in which models or simulations have been used as an aid to policy decision-making. We were not concerned with the software, the computer technology nor the simulations themselves per se, but with the ways in which models have been applied and used in practice with decision makers.
Key findingsThe use of modelling spans a wide range of fields including pure mathematics, physical sciences, engineering, computer science, business, military, economics and social science. A model is only a partial representation of reality, and as such is a simplification of the real world. The balance between realism and simplicity is a delicate one - a challenge is to develop the most parsimonious model that represents the key aspects of the system, whilst leaving sufficient complexity in the model to be relevant to solving a real world problem.
The reasons why models are a useful approach are numerous:
- models can enable exploration of scenarios in complex environments where the outcomes may not be obvious or intuitive;
- they can enable group exploration of complex and ambiguous issues, and represent a diversity of views;
- they can provide a “common framework and opportunity for fruitful discussion”.
- case studies in the real world are difficult hence models can test plausible hypotheses
Models can be effective and useful aids for decision-making processes, because they represent the complexity and dynamic relationships between important variables in the policy domain. In light of the complexity of illicit drug problems and associated policy, models provide both a tool for handing complexity, but also opportunities for exploration of plausible alternatives. As put by Levin, models can ‘increase the role of reason over rhetoric’ (Levin, Hirsch, & Roberts, 1972).
Implications for policyModels are a useful tool to aid decision-making. Greater understanding of how models can be used and their associated limitations is important.
Implications for researchDevelopment of new models and the associated dialogue methods are ripe with potential for further research.
Completed: July 2007
Common metrics - a tool for research integration
Research team: Gabriele Bammer, David McDonald and Peter Deane (ANU)
Rationale and aimsCommon metrics provide one strategy for integration by encapsulating the range of relevant disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge about the problem in a single measure. Theoretical work on common metrics from the Integration and Implementation Sciences team has practical relevance for the DPMP work on a Drug Harm Index. We have written a paper which describes four common metrics – monetary value, global hectares of land, metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and disability-adjusted life-years. The more familiar applications of the first two (monetary value and global hectares of land) are cost benefit analysis, ecosystem services analysis and ecological footprint calculations. The paper considers each common metric in relation to the different research questions that it is best suited to address. The paper also presents two real-world case studies, which illustrate how decision makers were involved in and influenced by the common metric research. The first case used the development of an ecological footprint analysis to raise awareness of and initiate action on sustainability issues in local government planning in Cardiff, Wales. The second case used a modified ecosystem services analysis to develop options for the sustainable development of a region in Victoria, Australia. The paper also discusses the limitations of this class of integration methods.
OutputsThe paper has been reviewed by a number of independent assessors and is now being finalised for submission to the journal, Ecology and Society.
Working estimates of the social costs per gram and per user for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines
Research team: Tim Moore (formerly Turning Point)
Rational and aims The primary objective of this study was to establish a first estimate of the social costs per kilogram of different illicit drugs; and the social costs per non-dependent and dependent user.
The research estimated the annual health and crime costs in Australia (circa 2004) associated with opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, and other illicit drugs separately between dependent users and non-dependent users. These were then combined with prevalence and consumption estimates to generate estimates of the social costs per drug user by drug type; and social costs per kilogram (or gram) for each drug type.
Key findingsAnnual social cost (health, crime and road accidents) per user by drug type, dependent and non-dependent users
|Social cost per dependent user||$ 11,296||$ 17,852||$ 105,342||$ 44,665|
|Social cost per non-dependent user ||$ 192||$ 314||$ 1,965||$ 926|
Sensitivity analyses (95% confidence intervals) revealed that the plausible range for the estimates for dependent users of cannabis was between $6,998 and $17,437 social cost per annum; for opiates between $55,330 and $115,222; and for amphetamines between $18,258 and $48,757.
Annual social costs per pure kilogram and pure gram, by illicit drug type
|Social cost per kilogram||$ 1,106||$ 360,241||$ 13,653,731||$ 6,488,695|
|Social cost per gram||$ 1.10||$ 360||$ 13,653||$ 6,488|
The plausible ranges (95% confidence intervals) for these figures of social cost per annum per pure gram are: for cannabis between $0.40cents and $2.00; for cocaine between $147.00 and $540.00; for opiates between $4,100 and $14,891; and for amphetamines between $1,710 and $6,983.
Implications for policyThis work is important because, by generating estimates such as these, we can begin to evaluate different policy responses in terms of cost savings to the community. Being able to specify the social costs per gram and per user for the main classes of illicit drugs means that we can evaluate policy responses – such as the potential cost savings of reducing the supply of a specific drug by X kilograms; or the cost savings of decreasing the number of dependent drug users by Y.
Implications for researchThere were several significant and important limitations to the work, all of which can be addressed in future research:
- The analysis depends on the assumption that social costs can be linked to particular types of drugs, and a decrease in how much that drug is used will decrease social costs. While this is a reasonable assumption for small changes in use, it would certainly not hold for large changes.
- It is important to understand that all social costs are allocated to illicit drugs as if their consumption has been constant over time. This has clearly not been the case, but there is not enough information to allocate current social costs between current and past use.
- There are significant gaps in our knowledge about the relationships between drug use and social costs. Even in countries where they have access to longitudinal datasets of the type that make such relationships easier to understand, the findings are conflicting and uncertain.
Completed: January 2007
OutputsMoore, T. (2007). Monograph No. 14: Working estimates of the social costs per gram and per user for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines. DPMP Monograph Series
. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
The impact of Portugal's decriminalization of drugs (PART A)
Research team: Caitlin Hughes
(NDARC) and Alex Stevens (University of Kent)
Rational and aims Since July 2001 Portugal has decriminalized illicit drug use, possession and acquisition of all illicit drugs and introduced an alternate more therapeutic and educative system. This project aimed to provide an overview of the current trends and perceptions of key stakeholders regarding the major impacts, successes and challenges in adopting decriminalization. Two key pieces of analysis have been conducted in November 2007 and July 2010.
Key findingsIn 2007 the statistical indicators suggested that following the reform there was increased use of cannabis, decreased use of heroin, a reduction in drug-related deaths, a reduction in infectious diseases, a reduction in the burden on the criminal justice system and an increase in the seizures of drugs. Key informants largely supported the statistical trends, but also identified a broader range of perceived impacts upon drug use, drug-related problem and institutional practices. They argued that the foremost success of the reform was the reduction in drug use and drug-related problems, particularly amongst heroin users. Other positive impacts included reduced stigma, increased opportunities to discuss and debate drug issues and policy responses and increased collaboration between the health and law enforcement sectors. A key question however remained whether impacts were attributable to the reform or to broader regional trends.
In 2010 a more extensive analysis of Portuguese trends from 1998 to 2008 against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy demonstrated that any apparent increases in cannabis use does not appear attributable to the reform: as adult drug use trends were congruous with those from Spain and Italy. Conversely, the reduction in burden of drug offenders in Portugal appeared Portugal specific (with an increasing burden of drug offenders in Spain). Moreover, there were no signs of mass expansion of the drug market in Portugal. This is in contrast with apparent market expansions in Spain.
Implications for policyThe reform provides important evidence for the debate on the impacts of decriminalisation. It demonstrates that - contrary to some predictions - decriminalisation does not inevitably lead to rises in drug use. Nor is it necessarily deleterious for the criminal justice system, at least in terms of the burden of drug offenders on the police and prisons. This is important given many prior studies have found decriminalisation will lead to more not less contact with the criminal justice system (net-widening). This study further shows that decriminalisation may also contribute to social and health benefits. Most importantly, this reform is one of the first examples of reform that involved the decriminalisation of all illicit drugs. This suggests that decriminalisation of drugs other than cannabis will not necessarily be a dangerous experiment.
Implications for researchOur research suggests that current theories and assumptions about decriminalisation are in need of development. Decriminalisation is often discussed as if it is one, simple, unitary concept. But there are several forms of decriminalisation in practice internationally. Each of the models will have their own sources, costs and benefits, which are in need of further research if we are to understand how they could be transferred across national borders. Our studies of the reform over a number of years have also illustrated the challenges in assessing the impacts from such a reform and the need to recognize the importance of the timing of assessment in relation to implementation. Repeated assessments is particularly necessary in regards to decriminalisation, where early years may prove more problematic, and heated debate makes such reforms particularly susceptible to uninformed criticism.
Completed: December 2007
OutputsHughes, C. (2011). Portugal. In M. Kleiman, J. Hawdon, & J.G. Golson (Eds). Encyclopedia of drug policy, (Vols. 1-2) (pp. 658-659). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Hughes, C., & Stevens, A. (2010). What we can learn from the Portuguese decriminalization of illicit drugs? British Journal of Criminology, 50(6), 999-1022.
Abstract / Full text
Hughes, C., & Stevens, A. (2007). The effects of decriminalization of drugs use in Portugal. The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme. Briefing Paper #14, December.
The impact of Portugal's decriminalization of drugs (PART B) - The use of evidence on Portugal's decriminalisation of drugs
Research team: Caitlin Hughes (NDARC) and Alex Stevens (University of Kent)
Rational and aims Ten years post the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drug use, acquisition and possession of all illicit drugs, a number of diametrically opposed policy conclusions have emerged from evidence-informed analyses of the reform. This is most amply demonstrated by the accounts of Glenn Greenwald that this is a “resounding success” and Dr Manuel Pinto that this is a “disastrous failure”. We sought to: outline the two most divergent accounts on the Portuguese reform; compare and contrast how they dealt with the three most contested claims surrounding the reform; demonstrate (by re-contextualising the accounts against the available evidence) how evidence has been used and misused and correct misinformation; and discuss the implications of this case study for the generation of evidence-based drug policy.
Key findingsThe Greenwald and Pinto accounts both attempted to demonstrate their grounding in the evidence, and that they were letting the evidence speak for itself. Yet, by outlining both accounts, and the choices that they made in presenting data, we found clear proof of misuse. Both showed selective use of evidence (focusing on different indicators, choice of years or datasets) and omission or a lack of acknowledgement of other pieces of the puzzle. Both also showed differential appreciations of data strengths and weaknesses: with weaknesses highlighted mainly by Greenwald to account for apparent failings. In so doing, both provided a version of events that offered certitude and support for opposing ‘core beliefs’.
The promulgation of errors in public discourse can be seen to have both advantages and disadvantages for participants in policy debates. On the one hand, Portugal may not have received the same level of international attention if it were not for such accounts. Increased awareness has moreover opened up opportunities for more nuanced and detailed learning. For example, the publicity has fuelled visits by other nations wanting to know more about how the reform works and its impacts.
On the other hand, the misuse of evidence has fuelled clear misconceptions about the reform (most notably that this reform did not lead to increased drug use) and shifted debate about how this reform has been spoken of. Finally and perhaps most dangerously, accounts such as these, can contribute to disengagement or lack of interest in the available evidence. For example, an American journalist, Keith O’Brien, concluded that the Portuguese decriminalisation has become “something of a Rorschach test where people ... can look at these numbers and make almost whatever argument they’d like to make”. A real fear is that the multitude of different accounts and their continued fuelling will lead to the dismissal of other more evidence-informed accounts.
Implications for policyThis illustrates the way all sides of the drug policy debates call upon and alternatively use or misuse ‘evidence’ to feed into discussions of the worth, efficacy and desirability of different illicit drug policies. Particularly for proponents of reform, deliberate misinterpretation of evidence appears a high risk game, providing easy grounds for discrediting reforms, ignoring the lessons that they provide and shifting public debate in directions that may prove detrimental to future proponents. More broadly, the dissemination of loose accounts poses serious risks of devaluing the case for evidence-based drug policy. At a time when many countries in the developed world have shifted electorally to the right, there may be a temptation to throw evidence-based drug policy out, under the pre-text that science proves nothing at all. Careful communication of claims is thus critical for both academics and advocates, so that evidence-informed accounts are more than mere ammunition for the policy battlefield.
Completed: December 2011
Hughes, C.E., & Stevens, A. (2012). A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Drug and Alcohol Review : Harm Reduction Digest. - 44, 31, 101-113.
Hughes, C. and Stevens, A. (2010, July). A dangerous experiment? Drug law reform in Portugal. Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference. Sydney University, Sydney.
Trigueiros, F., Stevens, A. & Hughes, C. (2010, April) National strategy on drugs in Portugal: Innovation and evidence, International Harm Reduction Association Conference, Liverpool, UK.
Hughes, C., & Stevens, A. (2008, July). Impacts from the Portuguese decriminalization of illicit drugs: What we know, what remains unclear and why we need to know more. Presentation at the British Society of Criminology Conference 2008, University of Huddersfield, UK.
Hughes, C. (2008, March). The Drug Policy Modelling Program: New approaches to informing policy, practice and research - The impacts from the Portuguese decriminalisation. Presentation at the Criminal Justice Research Network, UNSW, Sydney.
Hughes, C. (2008, February). The effects of the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Presentation at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Melbourne.
Trigueiros, F., Stevens, A., & Hughes, C. (2010, April). National strategy on drugs in Portugal: innovation and evidence, International Harm Reduction Association Conference, Liverpool, UK.
Hughes, C., & Stevens, A. (2010, October). Invited presentation: Decriminalising illicit drug use in Portugal: A dangerous experiment? ANEX Conference. Melbourne.
Hughes, C. (2011, August). Decriminalising illicit drug use in Portugal: Impacts on prevalence and patterns of illicit drug use. School of Public Health and Community Medicine 2011 Annual Research Symposium, UNSW, Sydney.
Hughes, C. (2011, September). Keynote address: What can we learn from the Portuguese decriminalization of illicit drugs? The Quebec National Institute of Public Health Symposium on Public Policies related to Psychoactive Substances, Quebec, Canada.
Hughes, C. (2011, November). Invited presentation: What can we learn from the Portuguese decriminalization of illicit drugs? 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, California.
25 news mentions from 2007-2011 including BBC news, The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, The Washington Post and ABC radio.
A summary of diversion programs for drug and drug-related offenders in Australia
Research team: Caitlin Hughes and Alison Ritter (NDARC)
Rationale and aimsIn Australia there has long been a preference to divert minor drug users to drug education and/or treatment instead of applying the traditional criminal justice response. This project sought to provide a jurisdictional overview of all drug diversion programs operating in Australia as of January 2007 and to summarise the program criteria, their target groups, diversionary procedures and legislative basis and the “systems” of diversion provided in each state or territory.
Key findingsAs of January 2007, a total of 52 diversion programmes operated for drug and drug-related offenders in Australia, with 3-12 programmes in each state or territory. Most were relatively new additions, with 35 or 67% programs being adopted between 2000 and 2007. While we tend to think of drug diversion as involving drug offences, 55% programs targeted any offence(s) (45% targeted drug use/possession and drug-related offences).. The most common diversionary response involved a therapeutic response (assessment and treatment) with 49% compulsory and 17% voluntary.
Across Australia five main types of programs were provided: police diversion for cannabis only; police diversion for other illicit drugs; police diversion for non-drug specific offences; court diversion for minor drug/drug-related offending; court diversion for serious drug/drug-related offending. Each type had core similarities, but there were also programmatic differences in design e.g. eligibility criteria and program length.
Clear differences were also evident in relation to jurisdictional design including: the number of programs provided, the relative emphases on police versus court diversion, the choice of eligibility criteria and the system of coordinating diversion programs.
Implications for policyThese findings indicate:
- a concerted commitment to provide diversionary responses across Australia and to the development of a more systematic and targeted approach;
- many forms and types of diversion are provided in Australia
- the design of programs and systems differs.
- differences may affect the capacity of drug offenders to engage in diversion programs, to address the causes of drug use or to achieve compliance with criminal justice requirements. It may also affect the cost to government of providing diversion.
We suggest that by identifying good design features, there is a real opportunity to improve the operation and outcomes from current systems for diverting drug and drug-related offenders in Australia.
Implications for researchTo identify programs and system designs that best work, it is important to examine the impacts of each: for example given both non-therapeutic and therapeutic approaches are provided to young drug offenders in Australia, which are more cost-effective at reducing future drug use? A second implication is the need for new methods to examine the impacts of different designs on program outcomes. For example, in relation to systems: To what extent does having more programs expand access? To what extent does it create challenges in coordination or reduce (or alternatively increase) cost-effectiveness? Is there an optimum mix of diversion programs? The diversity of program design provides many opportunities to learn and improve the designs of current diversion systems. The challenge remains that doing so will require the field to move beyond traditional single program studies.
Hughes, C., and Ritter, A. (2008). Monograph No. 16: A summary of diversion programs for drug and drug-related offenders in Australia. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Full text
Hughes, C. (2009). Away from the courts. Of Substance, 7(2), 20-21.
Hughes, C. (2010). Diversion: Australia’s alternative to drug law reform, Matters of Substance, 20(1), 15.
Hughes, C. (2011, June). Keynote address: Diversion of drug offenders in Australia: Towards optimal system design. Paper presented to the ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Sector: 4th Annual Conference, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
Hughes, C. (2009, November). An overview of the criminal justice diversionary responses in Australia and impacts to date, Presentation to the Swedish Delegation, NDARC, Sydney.
Hughes, C. (2008, March). The Drug Policy Modelling Program: New approaches to informing policy, practice and research - The diversion of drug and drug-related offenders: program and system designs. Presentation at the Criminal Justice Research Network, UNSW, Sydney.
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Research team: Gabriele Bammer, Michael Smithson (ANU) and the Goolabri Group*
* The Goolabri Group includes: Robyn Attewell, Stephen Buckman, Ann Curthoys, Kate Delaney, Stephen Dovers, Liz Furler, Sasha Grishin, Alan Hájek, John Handmer, Judith Jones, Steve Longford, John Mackey, Michael McFadden, Michael Moore, Paul Perkins,Pascal Perez, Stephen Pickard, Aileen Plant, John Quiggin, Alison Ritter and Ian White.
Rationale and aimsProviding an evidence base for effective policy making on illicit drugs has two components. One is to pull together what is known about the problem and/or to generate relevant new knowledge. The other is to provide a helpful way of understanding and managing what is not known, as decisions must almost always be made in the face of incomplete evidence. Researchers who seek to influence policy inevitably concentrate on the former, largely because ways to approach the unknown are poorly conceptualised and limited. We have undertaken pioneering work in developing better understanding about the multifaceted nature of unknowns, as a first step in enhancing our ability to provide more complete policy advice.
In 2005, as part of Stage One of DPMP, Gabriele Bammer and Michael Smithson organised a symposium to trade ideas between different disciplines and practice areas on the nature of uncertainty.
The symposium papers and subsequent synthesis of ideas have been published in the book, Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (London: Earthscan), edited by Bammer and Smithson. The book was launched on Thursday 8th May, 2008.
An important aspect of the work was to begin the process of applying diverse ideas about uncertainty to the illicit drugs area (see chapter by Ritter in the book). In the book’s three synthesis chapters the insights from the various disciplines and practice areas were used to cast light on these issues. For example, a taxonomy of different kinds of uncertainty showed that ‘incompleteness’, ‘irrelevance’, ‘vagueness’, ‘fuzziness’, ‘distortion’, ‘absence’ and ‘taboo’ are dimensions of uncertainty relevant to these problems, each invoking different management strategies. Further, the synthesis chapters demonstrated that policy formation typically involves a mixture of anticipatory and resilience stances towards managing uncertainty.
Implications for policy
Two chapters, by Michael Moore and Liz Furler, explored unknowns in policy making – examining the issues from the perspectives of a politician and a public servant, respectively. Among other things, they demonstrate that the kinds of unknowns that concern policy makers are often very different from those that researchers concentrate on and that this difference in perspectives on unknowns warrants particular attention. As indicated earlier, a key issue for this book was to begin a process to enhance the ability to manage unknowns in policy decisions which very often have to be made in situations where the evidence is incomplete.
Implications for research
This is an area which is wide open for further research on a) better understanding different kinds of unknowns, b) synthesis of different disciplinary and stakeholder perspectives on unknowns and c) developing a wider range of management strategies for unknowns.
Funding Funding for the symposium was also received from the National Institute of Social Sciences and Law.
Books and book chapters
Bammer, G., & Smithson, M. (2008). (eds.) Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, London: Earthscan. To order a copy of the book, click here.
Bammer, G., & Smithson, M. (2008). Introduction. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds). Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 3-12), London: Earthscan.
Bammer, G. (2008). Adopting orphans: uncertainty and other neglected aspects of complex problems. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 27-41). London: Earthscan.
Bammer, G., Smithson, M., & the Goolabri Group (2008). The nature of uncertainty. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 289-303). London: Earthscan.
Perez, P. (2008). Embracing social uncertainties with complex systems science. In M. Smithson and G. Bammer (Eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspective (pp. 147-155). London: EarthScan.
Ritter, A. (2008). Heroin: Injected with uncertainty. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds.), Uncertaintyand Risk: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 157-169). London: Earthscan.
Smithson, M., Bammer, G., & the Goolabri Group (2008). Uncertainty metaphors, motives and morals. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 305-320). London: Earthscan.
Smithson, M., Bammer, G., & the Goolabri Group (2008). Coping and managing under uncertainty. In G. Bammer and M. Smithson (Eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 321-333). London: Earthscan.
Bammer, G. and The Goolabri Group (2007). Improving the management of ignorance and uncertainty. A case illustrating integration in collaboration. In A. B. Shani, S. A. Mohrman, W. A. Pasmore, B. Stymne and N. Adler (Eds.), Handbook of Collaborative Management Research (pp.421-437). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Full text
Bammer, G. and Smithson, M. (2008). Understanding uncertainty. Integration Insights # 7, May.Abstract / Full text
Smithson, M. and Bammer, G. (2008). Uncertainty: Metaphors, motives, and morals. Integration Insights # 8, June. Abstract / Full text
More information email@example.com
A comparative analysis of research into illicit drugs in the European Union
Research team: Alison Ritter and Francis Matthew-Simmons (NDARC)
Rationale and aims This brief project formed part of a large analysis undertaken by the European Commission on the state of illicit drug research across Europe. The analysis of illicit drug research across Europe included examining the structures for research prioritisation, the funding mechanisms, topics of research undertaken and the level of investment. The European Commission wished to have three comparison countries for their analysis – USA, Canada and Australia.
The DPMP prepared the research report for Australia which covered: history of Australian illicit drug research; Australian research funding structures; topics of research; and strategic processes for illicit drug research.
The full European Commission report is available online (see below).
- Australia “punches above its weight”, in illicit drug research, as demonstrated by the fact that we are the second or third most published nation in both “Drug and Alcohol Dependence” 9at 9% following USA, and higher than UK at 4%) and “Addiction” (at 12% for AUS, UK 17%, USA 41%).
- The two national drug research centres, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) are both significant players in Australian illicit drug research. The Commonwealth government provides annual core funds to both centres, which amounted to a total of $3,357,000 in 2006.
- Funding sources for Australian illicit drug research include government (commissioned) research, generic competitive research funding bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, and philanthropy.
- It is difficult to precisely estimate illicit drug research spending in Australia. Our estimate for the year 2006 was AUS $16.8 million dollars. This represents a per capita spending of $0.81 cents per annum. Relative to overall Australian investment in health research it is a very small amount. The NHMRC annual fund is $539m, of which $9.9m is invested in illicit drugs research, representing 1.8% of the total competitive health research investment.
- In the past there has been concern that Australia does not invest in interventions research. It would appear that this is no longer the case, with 40% being ‘interventions’ research in the broadest sense. There does seem to be under investment in the basic sciences relative to epidemiology (28%) and interventions research (40%).
Completed: November 2008
European Commission. (2009). Comparative Analysis of Research into Illicit Drugs in the European Union
. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.
Ritter, A. (2009, September). Keynote address: Illicit drug research in Australia: The research policy interface. Presentation at the Bridging the Research Gap in the Field of Illicit Drugs in the EU, Brussels.
The influence of drug prices on the patterns of drug consumption of methamphetamine users
Research team: Jenny Chalmers
(NDARC), Craig Jones, Don Weatherburn and Deborah Bradford (BOCSAR)
Interviewing Assistants: Colleen Faes
, David Bright
, Caitlin Huges
, and Rachel Ngui (NDARC)
Rationale and aims
This project aimed to improve our understanding of drug users’ responses to price changes in terms of the quantities of drugs consumed. We applied the paradigm developed by Nancy Petry and Warren Bickel to understand polydrug use with behavioural economic analyses. Petry and Bickel (1998) developed a set of hypothetical experiments to be undertaken in the field, replicating as far as possible the real life drug purchasing experience. Based on a survey of 101 methamphetamine users, we used this experimental approach to determine:
- What effect changes in the price of methamphetamine have on demand for methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, cannabis, benzodiazepines, pharmaceutical opioids and alcohol?
- Likewise, what effect do changes in the price of heroin have on demand for these drugs?
Key findingsWhile demand for both methamphetamine and heroin was found to be price elastic, elasticity estimates were influenced by the nature of participants’ drug dependence. The group least responsive to changes in methamphetamine price were those dependent only on methamphetamine, while the group most responsive were dependent only on heroin. Similar findings emerged in relation to changes in heroin price. Cross-price elasticity analysis showed limited substitution into other drugs as the price of methamphetamine increased. In contrast, for heroin, there was significant substitution into pharmaceutical opioids and to a lesser extent, benzodiazepines and methamphetamine. However, for the most part, the decreases in methamphetamine or heroin consumption outweighed any substitution into other drugs.
Implications for policyThe reduction in overall drug consumption and expenditure in response to price increases in heroin and methamphetamine observed in this sample lend support to supply-side enforcement strategies that aim to increase retail drug price.
Notably, this analysis highlights the importance of accounting for the nature of users’ drug dependence in estimating price responsiveness.
Implications for research
- This project proved the worth of the behavioural economics inspired experimental approach to understanding responses to price/quality changes, and has lead to a new ARC grant on alcohol and illicit drug prices for young people
- Responses to the few questions on the realities of purchasing/accessing drugs and participants’ commentaries while undertaking the experiment suggest there is worth in devoting a research project to characterising the nature of the retail market in economic terms through open ended interviews with this demographic. Current understanding does not accommodate the heterogeneity of experiences and user knowledge.
- What is the role of crime in mediating the price consumption nexus?
Completed: March 2010
Chalmers, J., & Bradford, D. (2013, in press). Methamphetamine users' perceptions of exchanging drugs for money: Does trust matter? Journal of Drug Issues.
/ Full text
Chalmers, J., Bradford, J., & Jones, C. (2010). The effect of methamphetamine and heroin price on polydrug use: A behavioural economics analysis in Sydney, Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy
(5), 381-389. Abstract
/ Full text
Chalmers, J., Bradford, J., & Jones, C. (2009, September). How do methamphetamine users respond to changes in methamphetamine price? Crime and Justice Bulletin
, 134. Full text
Bradford, D., Chalmers, J., & Jones, C. (2009, November). How do methamphetamine users respond to changes in the price of methamphetamine and heroin? Paper presented at the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs, Darwin, Australia.
Chalmers, J. (2009, October). Exploring the dynamics of the demand for drugs: A behavioural economics analysis of the effects of price on drug use in a sample of methamphetamine users. DPMP Research Symposium, Sydney.
Drug law enforcement performance monitoring: The persistence of simplistic measures and barriers to moving forward
Research team: Caitlin Hughes
(NDARC) and Steve James (University of Melbourne)
Rationale and aimsThe aim of this project was to critically analyse the current state of drug law enforcement (DLE) performance monitoring in three nations (Australia, UK and USA), to identify how police agencies in such nations currently hold themselves to account and to put forward potential rationales for the longstanding lack of improvement in DLE performance monitoring.
Key findingsAcross the three nations a very similar picture emerged: namely that in spite of different relative emphases about performance monitoring, DLE is measured primarily in terms of activity. For example, within Australian 18 different indicators of DLE performance were in use, yet only 4 could conceivably be considered indicators of impact (eg % of the community who think illicit drugs are a problem in their neighbourhood). Moreover, the measures of impact were only used in a minority of jurisdictions. Even the UK which had a strong government emphasis upon performance monitoring retained activity measures. Thus in spite of over 25 years of calls for improvements, DLE performance monitoring has remained poor. The lack of improvement has been attributed in part to five inter-related reasons including the financial and practical impediments to change, a disciplinary background and culture at odds with quality improvement, and uncertainties pervading DLE performance assessment.
Implications for policyThis helps to understand that inadequate performance measures of DLE are likely to be embedded deeply in organisational culture and in long-held popular and political assumptions about the inherent worth of law enforcement activities. They are thus not simply attributable to opposition or resistance by the DLE sector. This means that if improved DLE measures are to be valued then concerted action will be needed on multiple fronts to facilitate greater public debate about DLE performance, and reduce political valorisation of DLE as equating with arrests and seizures.
Implications for researchA core implication for researchers is the need to reach some agreement about the necessary elements which would constitute a sophisticated monitoring system for DLE. The current disagreement over DLE goals, indicators and ways and means of measurement is one reason for the absence of improvement.
Completed: March 2010
Hughes, C., & James, S. (2012). Performance Monitoring of Australian Drug Law Enforcement Agencies: Impediments to and Prospects for Reform. Current Issues in Criminal Justice
(3), 295-312. Abstract
/ Full text
Hughes, C., & James, S. (2009, October). Drug law enforcement performance monitoring: The persistence of simplistic measures and barriers to moving forward. DPMP Team Meeting, Sydney.
Hughes, C., & James, S. (2010, March). The drug law enforcement performance monitoring impasse: Critical analysis and strategies to move forward. Paper presented at the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP) Conference. Santa Monica, CA, USA.
Hughes, C. (2007, September). How should Australia assess the outcomes from drug law enforcement? A critical review of the outcome measures, 20th Annual Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology Conference, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide.
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Media reporting on illicit drug use in Australia: Trends and youth attitudes toward media reporting
Research team: Caitlin Hughes
, Bridget Spicer, Kari Lancaster
, Francis Matthew-Simmons
(NDARC) and Paul Dillon (Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia)
Rationale and aimsThe purpose of the project was fourfold: to identify the dominant media portrayals used to denote illicit drugs in Australian print news media (cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin); to identify the extent to which media portrayals changed over time (from 2003-2008); to explore the impacts of different media portrayals on youth attitudes to drugs (perceptions of the risks and acceptability of illicit drug use and stated likelihood of future drug use); and to identify any sub-populations of youth that are particularly receptive to media reporting. A three part method was adopted involving media content analysis of 3,959 articles from 11 newspapers, a national online survey of 2,296 youth aged 16-24 that canvassed reactions to eight media portrayals on illicit drugs (canvassing two drug types) and focus groups with 52 youth aged 16-24.
Drugs were highly pervasive in Australian newspapers. Indeed over the period 2003-2008 an average of 19 articles relating to drugs were published every day, and that was from a sample of 11 newspapers alone. Criminal justice and law enforcement topics overwhelmingly dominated print news media reporting on illicit drugs, with for example 55.2% of the sample denoting criminal justice action regarding users, dealers or traffickers. Despite common assumptions of “moral panic” and “sensationalism” regarding reporting on illicit drugs in the media, only 7.0% of the sample portrayed drugs as a crisis issue. Most articles were written with a neutral or bad moral evaluation about drugs (87.2%). The media differentially framed drug types in subtle ways. For example, heroin was framed most narrowly (i.e. discussed almost exclusively as a criminal justice issue) and amphetamine was most portrayed using a bad moral evaluation of drugs and as a crisis issue. Between 2003 and 2008 patterns of reporting shifted slightly with, for example, an increase in reporting of social problems associated with drug use.
As predicted media reporting was capable of influencing youth attitudes to drugs, at least in the short term. With only one exception, media increased perceptions of risk, reduced perceptions of acceptability, and reduced the reported likelihood of future drug use. Effects were largest for females (compared to males), non users (compared to recent users and non-recent users), and those who denoted themselves as less interested in/susceptible to drug use. The type of portrayal affected the size and direction of impact. For example, negative portrayals of the health consequences of drug use (e.g. mental health problems), were more likely to reduce perceptions of risk than portrayals of law enforcement action.
Implications for policyThis study provides the first clear evidence that illicit drugs are highly pervasive in Australian print news media and are disproportionately portrayed in a criminal justice context. While the focus has been on print media, there is merit in believing that this imbalance in reporting holds true for other Australian news media. Disparity in media reporting serves to narrow opportunities for informed drug policy debate as framing affects the type of policy solutions that can be explored, as well as public perceptions of norms and risks associated with drugs, their use and those who use them.
This study further suggests that mainstream news media can play a role in current and future dissemination of prevention and harm reduction messages. But given that the dominant messages are not those deemed most persuasive to Australian youth this research suggests that the preventative role is currently being stymied. A clear opportunity thus exists to increase engagement with media outlets about the short and long term harms from drug use. Taking advantage of this opportunity will demand increased investment in advocacy and public relations capabilities and more strategic targeting about illicit drug issues.
Implications for researchThere is a need to replicate the current media content analysis across other forms of news media and to assess the impacts of news media portrayals on attitudes in real world settings, to measure impacts on use per se and to assess impacts of non-mainstream media e.g. films on attitudes.
Completed: June 2010
Hughes, C.E., Spicer, B., Lancaster, K., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010). Monograph No. 19: Media reporting of illicit drugs in Australia: Trends and impacts on attitudes to illicit drugs. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
Lancaster, K., Hughes, C.E., Spicer, B., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2011). Illicit drugs and the media: Models of media effects for use in drug policy research, Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(4), 397-402. Full text
Hughes, C.E., Lancaster, K. & Spicer, B. (2011). How do Australian news media depict illicit drug issues? An analysis of print media reporting across and between illicit drugs, 2003-2008. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22(4), 285-291.Full text
Lancaster, K., Hughes, C., Spicer, B., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2011). Curiosity killed the M-Cat: an examination of illicit drugs and the media. Proceedings of the 2010 Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference. Institute of Criminology, Sydney Law School: The University of Sydney.
Hughes, C.E. Spicer, B. & Lancaster, K. (in press, Accepted 9/06/11). Young people’s perceptions of and engagement with news media reporting on illicit drug issues: An Australian study. Current Issues in Criminal Justice.
Lancaster, K., Hughes, C.E. & Spicer, B. (in press, Accepted 7/7/11). News media consumption amongst young Australians: Patterns of use and attitudes towards media reporting. Media International Australia.
Hughes, C., Lancaster, K. Spicer, B., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010). Youth, drugs and the media: Creating attitude. Of Substance, 8(3), 16-17. Full text
Hughes, C., Lancaster, K, Mathew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010). News values. Druglink. (Sep/Oct), 16-17.
Hughes, C., Spicer, B., Lancaster, K., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010). Bulletin No. 20: Drugs in the Australian news media: Trends and impacts on youth attitudes to illicit drug use. DPMP Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Full text
Dillon, P., Hughes, C. Lancaster, K., Spicer, B., & Matthew-Simmons, F. (2010, June). Australian media report on drugs, The 6th International Conference on Nightlife, Substance Use and Related Health Issues (Club Health), Zurich, Switzerland.
Lancaster, K., Hughes, C., Spicer, B., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010, July). Curiosity killed the M-cat: An examination of illicit drugs and the media. Presented to the Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference. Sydney: University of Sydney. Full text
Hughes, C., Lancaster, K., Spicer, B., Matthew-Simmons. F., & Dillon, P. (2010, August). Media: The new battleground for the alcohol and drug sector. NDARC Seminar, Sydney, NDARC.
Hughes, C. and Lancaster, K. (2010, November). Youth, drugs and media: patterns of media consumption and perceptions of reporting of illicit drugs in the Australian news media. Communications Policy & Research Forum, Sydney.
Hughes, C. and Lancaster, K. (2010, November). Media: The new battleground for the alcohol and drug sector. Presentation to NUAA, Sydney.
Hughes, C. and Lancaster, K. (2010, November). Media: The new battleground for the alcohol and drug sector. Presentation to NSW Health, Sydney.
Hughes, C., Spicer, B., Lancaster, K., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2010, November). ‘Would it make me take drugs in a heartbeat? No but.’ The impact of media reporting on Australian youth attitudes to illicit drugs, APSAD, Canberra.
Hughes, C., Spicer, B., Lancaster, K., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Dillon, P. (2011, May). Read all about it: The impact of news media on Australian youth attitudes to drugs. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on Drugs and Young People, Melbourne.
46 news mentions about study from across regional and metropolitan Australian print news and radio e.g. ABC Radio National, Fox FM, Perth Sunshine FM.
42 news mentions about study results including take up in specific news outlets for media professionals e.g. Reportage magazine and Digital journal.
For the related media release - click here
More information email@example.com
Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S)
Research team: Gabriele Bammer (ANU)
Rationale and aims
Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) is developing concepts and methods to enhance the effectiveness of research programs - like DPMP – which address complex issues.
I2S addresses three domains:
- Synthesis of knowledge from different disciplines and stakeholders
- Comprehensive understanding and management of unknowns
- Providing integrated research support (combining synthesized knowledge and comprehensive appreciation of unknowns) for policy and practice change.
A five question framework for systematically planning and reporting the methodology used in research addressing complex real-world problems has also been developed. Further, as well as this theoretical approach, a range of other DPMP projects have contributed to building relevant concepts and methods. These projects are:
- Dialogue methods for research integration
- Common metrics - a tool for research integration
- Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
- Research-Policy Nexus Reading Group
- Using models of policy making to examine how research evidence can be more influential
Implications for policyI2S aims to provide concepts and methods which will support policy change with a combination improved knowledge (synthesized from relevant disciplines and stakeholder perspectives) and enhanced understanding and management of unknowns.
Implications for researchFuture research will be aimed at testing the utility of the theoretical framework which has been developed, as well as strengthening compilations of relevant concepts and methods.
FundingThe development of I2S is a long-term project which has also been supported by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at The Australian National University, the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, as well as grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council and Land & Water Australia.
Peer reviewed papers
Bammer, G. (2005). Integration and Implementation Sciences: Building a New Specialization. Ecology and Society
(2), 6. Full text
Bammer, G. (2008). Enhancing research collaborations: Three key management challenges. Research Policy
(5), 875-887. Abstract
/ Full text
Bammer, G. (2006). Integration and Implementation Sciences: Building a new specialisation. In P. Perez and D. Batten (Eds.), Complex science for a complex world. Exploring human ecosystems with agents
(pp. 95-110). Canberra: ANU E-Press.Abstract
/ Full text
Pohl, C., van Kerkhoff, L., Hirsch Hadorn, G., & Bammer, G. (2008). Integration. In G. Hirsch Hadorn, H. Hoffmann-Riem, S. Biber-Klemm, W. Grossenbacher-Mansuy, D. Joye, C. Pohl, U. Wiesmann, and E. Zemp (Eds.), Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research
(pp.411-426). Zurich: Springer.
Bammer, G. (2008). Integrating policy analysis and complexity: developing the new specialization of Integration and Implementation Sciences. In L. F. Dennard, K. A. Richardson, and G. Morcol (Eds.), Complexity and Policy Analysis: Tools and Concepts for Designing Robust Policies in a Complex World. Exploring Organizational Complexity Series Volume 2
(pp. 249-264). Goodyear AZ: ISCE Publishing. Full text
Hirsch Hadorn G., Pohl, C., & Bammer, G. (2010). Solving problems through transdisciplinary research. In R. Frodeman (Ed.) and J. T. Klein and C. Mitcham (Assoc. Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity
(pp.431-452). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
van Kerkhoff, L., & Bammer, G. (2010). Improving integrated research: Tools for analysis and learning. In W. Proctor (editor-in-chief), L. van Kerkhoff and S. Hatfield Dodds (Eds.), Integrated Mission-directed Research: Experiences from Environmental and Natural Resource Management
, (pp.24-37). Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.
Bammer, G. (2004). Building a new specialisation of Integration and Implementation Sciences: would system dynamics fit? In M. Kennedy, G.W. Winch, R.S. Langer, J.I. Rowe, and J.M. Yanni, (Eds.), Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference of the System Dynamics Society
, Oxford, England UK, 25-29 July 2004.
Bammer, G. (2008). Do we need a new discipline to document and transmit problem-based learnings? In A. Ertas, B. Sorensen, S. R. Das, R. Juric, S. Yang, and J. Altmann (Eds.), Integrated Systems, Design, Process Science, Proceedings of the Eleventh SDPS Transdisciplinary Conference on Integrated Systems, Design and Process Science, Taichung, Taiwan, June 1-6.
Bammer, G. (2006). A Systematic approach to integration in research. Integration Insights #1
, September. Abstract
/ Full text
Bammer, G. (2006). Illustrating a systematic approach to explain integration in research – the case of the World Commission on Dams. Integration Insights #2
, October. Abstract
/ Full text
Bammer, G. (2007). Key concepts underpinning research integration. Integration Insights # 5,
/ Full text
Bammer, G. (2008). The case for a new discipline of integration and implementation sciences (I2S). Integration Insights # 6
, May. Abstract
/ Full text
Bammer, G. (2008). Enhancing research collaborations. Integration Insights # 10,
/ Full text
An assessment of illicit drug policy in Australia (1985 to 2010): themes and trends
Research team: Alison Ritter
, Kari Lancaster
(NDARC), Katrina Grech (formerly NDARC) and Peter Reuter
(University of Maryland)
Rationale and aimsThis work aimed to provide an accessible description and assessment of drug policy in Australia from 1985 to 2010, including a description of the policy context, the successive iterations of the National Drug Strategy, trends in drug use and harm, and drug policy actors. It is hoped this report will become the ‘source’ document for those wanting an overview of the Australian situation.
Methods/designWe took the Australian context as our starting point. Using this as our foundation, we then focus on the development of the national drug strategies to examine the ways in which Australia’s drug policy from 1985 to 2010 has been distinctly characterised by harm minimisation, partnership approaches, a balance between policy elements and a commitment to evidence-informed policy. We discuss these features by placing each in the context of the similar and contrasting approaches of the international community.
We examine trends in drug use and associated harms in Australia by analysing data from key population surveys, sentinel surveys of active drug users and data routinely collected, and consider what may account for these changing patterns. In this context we make international comparisons, and although the data are limited, we can draw some conclusions about Australia’s drug use and associated harms compared to other nations and how these have changed over time. We conclude with an analysis of the roles of some of the many actors in the Australian drug policy landscape.
ResultsAustralia has achieved a great deal since the adoption of the harm minimisation approach to drug policy in 1985. We find evidence that Australia has done comparatively well in implementing policy which is known to be evidence based and effective. What is perhaps striking about Australian drug policy is the degree of consistency and coherence in the overall approach since 1985 – that is almost twenty five years of a consistent approach, without deviation. But despite Australia’s historical position as a champion of ‘harm minimisation’, it appears that Australia is now falling behind some other nations in terms of innovation and continuous development of harm minimisation strategies.
The consideration of the multiple, and often competing, ‘voices’ in the drug policy system is important in this context. We identify five ‘voices’: the research community; the state; the third sector; international regulatory bodies; and the general public. In our analysis we find that the research community has contributed to encouraging evidence-based policy but inherent barriers remain in bridging the gap between evidence and policy. The shift in government, from public sector ‘rowing’ to more ‘steering’, has impacted on drug policy and led to changes in the provision of treatment, prevention, and even policing services by non-government actors. As a result, the role of the third sector has risen in prominence in Australia, consistent with this pluralised governance. In association with this rise, as demonstrated through the roles of bodies such as the Australian National Council on Drugs, the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia and Drug Free Australia, we observe the emergence of a more vocal conservative element in drug policy debate. It is unclear to what extent this signals a shift away from Australia’s harm minimisation approach, or whether these ‘voices’ reflect ongoing ideological tensions. International regulatory bodies continue to be important players in influencing Australian drug policy, particularly regarding scope for developing harm reduction approaches. Finally, we argue that the Australian general public have an important stake in drug policy, but at present there are no formal mechanisms to engage with them. A critical variable in engaging the public is the role of the media, as evidence demonstrates that media are influential in defining the scope of policy problems and proposing solutions.
OutputsRitter, A., Lancaster, K., Grech, K., & Reuter, P. (2011). Monograph No. 21: An assessment of illicit drug policy in Australia (1985-2010): Themes and trends. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Full text
Examining supply changes in Australia's cocaine market
Research team: Caitlin Hughes, Jenny Chalmers, David Bright, Francis Matthew-Simmons (DPMP, NDARC) and Natasha Sindicich (NDARC)
Rationale and aimsFollowing some of the largest cocaine seizures in Australia's recorded history (until December 2010), including 464kg in October 2010, there has been increased speculation about a possible expansion in Australia’s cocaine supply. Media attention has also increased, as indicated by a 35% increase in cocaine mentions (between 2009 and 2010) in Australian newspapers alone. Yet, questions remain as to whether there has been a real expansion in supply and if so, whether it is Australia-wide and whether this should be of concern to the Australian community. The purpose of this project was to examine the evidence behind assertions of increased supply and the scale and nature of any apparent increase, using proxy indicators of cocaine importation, distribution and use.
MethodsEight proxies of cocaine importation, distribution and use were adopted, including amount of importation, mode of importation and supply flows to Australia. Each proxy indicator was sourced using publicly available and Australia-wide data, including information on the total weight of border seizures, mode of detection and country of embarkation of individual seizures (see table 1 for three proxy indicators). Trends were examined for up to a 12 year period (1997–1998 to 2009–2010).
Key findingsAnalysis showed that since 2006-07, relative to the previous four years, there is evidence of increased importation, distribution and use in Australia, with key indicators being: increases in the total weight of cocaine detected at the border; a predominance of commercial weight seizures; a predominance of detections via sea cargo; and increases in consumer and provider arrests in Australia. This suggests that, at least over that period of time, media attention has been warranted. But analysis over a longer time frame, encapsulating 1997-98 to 2009-10, shows a more nuanced picture.
Three discernible periods are apparent in cocaine supply to Australia: period 1 (1999-00 to 2001-02) with high total weight, high mean weight per cocaine seizure (6.7-10.1kg); period 2 (2002-03 to 2005-06) with low total and mean weight (0.1-0.4kg); and period 3 (2006-07 to 2009-10) with high total weight but a substantially lower mean weight per cocaine seizure (1.0-1.7kg) than period 1 (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Number, total weight and mean weight of border seizures of cocaine, 1997-98 to 2009-10
Other discernable differences concerned mode of attempted importation and supply routes to and within Australia. For example, Period 1 was associated with predominant attempted importations via ships and aircraft; Period 2 with more opportunistic/ unplanned means: attempted importations via air passengers or international post; and Period 3 with a return to more planned methods: attempted importations via air/sea cargo. There was moreover evidence of evidence of increasing diversification over time in the countries that served as embarkation points for attempted cocaine importation into Australia (22 countries in 1999-2000 to 46 countries in 2008-09) and evidence of increasing diversification of the points of entry into Australia (with increasing number of seizures made in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth compared with the traditional entry point, Sydney).
Implications for policyThe congruity between indicators suggests that, relative to the four years prior, there has been an expansion in cocaine supply to and distribution within Australia. But the equally salient issue is the nature of supply and here we have showed evidence of much more diverse drug flows in recent times. A shift towards more diverse trafficking of cocaine supply within Australia is something not previously identified, yet could pose significant risks to the Australian community. Key risks include further entrenching cocaine supply and use, attracting/retaining new players in the Australian markets, expanding organised crime and reducing the ease of law enforcement detection.
PublicationsHughes, C.E., Chalmers, J., Bright, D., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Sindicich, N. (2011). Examining shifts in supply in Australia's cocaine market. Drug and Alcohol Review.
Value of cannabis plants as reported in the media
Research team: Francis Matthew-Simmons, Marian Shanahan, Alison Ritter (NDARC)
Rationale and aimsThe dollar value of drug seizures, often referred to as the ‘street value’ is a widely used indicator of the size of a drug seizure, particularly when reported in the mass media. Seizure values have in the past been used as a surrogate measure for the effectiveness of law enforcement interventions. This project aimed to examine the accuracy of the media reported value of seized hydroponic cannabis plants, by comparing the figures printed in major Australian newspapers, with a research-based estimate constructed by the authors.
Key findingsThe reported value of cannabis seizures in this sample of newspaper articles were highly inflated when compared with the authors’ estimated value. Fifteen articles referred to 14 separate seizure events (one article referred to separate seizures, and in two other cases a single seizure was referred to by two separate articles). The size of the reported seizures ranged from 100 plants to 2500 plants, with reported values of seizures ranging between $125 000 and $20 million. The median price per cannabis plant from the newspaper reports was $4432. The reported newspaper values appear consistent with those found in news reports from the USA, where cannabis plants were estimated to be valued at between $US3000 and $US5000, according to news reports in 2006. The reported newspaper values of seizures were between 1.8 and 11.9 times higher than our middle estimate. Reported estimates are provided by police via press release (not constructed by journalists).
Implications for policyInflated seizure values may overstate the effectiveness of law enforcement interventions, and they may also overstate the size or profitability of the cannabis market itself.
Matthew-Simmons, F., Shanahan, M., & Ritter, A. (2011). Reported value of cannabis seizures in Australian newspapers: are they accurate? Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(1), 21-5.
Matthew-Simmons, F., Shanahan, M., & Ritter, A. Bulletin No. 19: Estimating the street value of a cannabis plant in Australia. DPMP Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Full text
Matthew-Simmons, F. (2009, November). Reported value of cannabis seizures in Australian newspapers: Are they accurate? 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs, Darwin, Australia.
More information firstname.lastname@example.org
Social network analysis in illicit drug markets: Evaluating the feasibility of innovative methodology
Research team: David Bright, Caitlin Hughes and Jenny Chalmers (NDARC)
Rationale and aimsA small but growing number of analysts of criminal activity have used social network analysis (SNA) to characterise criminal organisations and produce valuable insights into the operation of illicit markets. The successful conduct of SNA requires data that informs the links or relationships between pairs of individuals within the group. To date analyses have been undertaken with data extracted from offender databases, transcripts of physical or electronic surveillance, written summaries of police interrogations, and transcripts of court proceedings. These data can be expensive, time-consuming and complicated to access and analyse.
This project aimed to determine the feasibility and utility of conducting SNA using a novel source of data: judges’ sentencing comments. Free of charge, publically accessible without the need for ethics clearance, available at the completion of sentencing and summary in nature, these data offer a more accessible and less expensive alternative to the usual forms of data used. The judge’s sentencing comments were drawn from a series of Australian court cases involving members of a criminal group involved in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine during the 1990s.
Key findingsWe demonstrate that judge’s sentencing comments are a fruitful source of data for SNA analysis of criminal networks. Our SNA of an Australian methamphetamine trafficking network (the Kalache network) produced valuable insights into network size, roles, interactions and synergies, structure and leadership, as well as network vulnerabilities to law enforcement intervention. A key insight proffered by this SNA analysis is that criminal groups operating in the methamphetamine market may be conceptualised as networks, comprised of sub-groups, not only as hierarchies.
Implications for policyThe project has policy implications for the susceptibility of the network to drug law enforcement interventions. A number of features decreased the susceptibility of the current methamphetamine network to DLE interventions. These included the presence of a loosely connected network, and corrupt officials. The use of multiple clan labs was also protective as it increased the ability and ease with which network operators could move their operations, and attenuated the impact of any one clandestine laboratory seizure. The further presence of role differentiation and replication meant that, with the exception of the leaders and brokers, the removal of a network participant was unlikely to lead to network collapse.
Conversely a number of features of the market increased its susceptibility for disruption. These included the centralisation of power, and high inter-connectedness of three of the managers.
Implications for researchThe findings point to productive areas of further research. Our findings with respect to the feasibility and utility of SNA with judges’ sentencing comments need to be extended to identify the pitfalls of using this data. This requires the conduct of parallel social network analyses of a particular criminal group comparing various sources of data. Further work to develop a conceptual framework of criminal networks drawing from network theory is also needed.
Bright, D., Hughes, C.E., & Chalmers, J. (in press, Accepted 22/10/10). Illuminating dark networks: A social network analysis of an Australian drug trafficking syndicate, Crime, Law and Social Change.
Bright, D. A., Hughes, C., Chalmers, J., & Grech, K. (2009, December). Social network analysis in illicit drug markets: an innovative methodology. Paper presented at the Illicit Networks Workshop, Wollongong, Australia.
More information: email@example.com
Comparative policy analysis: a review of methods and approaches
Research team:Jenny Chalmers, Caitlin Hughes (NDARC) and Katrina Grech (formerly NDARC)
Rationale and aimsComparative policy evaluation (CPE) is an effective tool for drug policy evaluation, yet it has been rarely applied. The drug policy CPE literature lacks a consistent methodology. This could be fodder for those wanting to discredit or ignore the findings and a possible source of inconsistent research findings. With this paper we aim to increase awareness of the potential of this analytical approach, provide some guidance for consistency in its application and advocate for its use in federated nations, exemplified by Australia.
Key findingsWe demonstrate ample opportunity for CPE in federated nations. We group the methodological features of robust CPE into three components: scoping the research problem; developing the analytical framework; and ensuring comparability of the data. The features included a thorough mapping of the link between the policy and outcomes, incorporating the possibility that outcomes can drive the policy in question. Related to this is the need to identify mediating factors and determine the temporal structure of the explanatory account. Australia’s federation which provides such promise for CPE allows for interstate differences in the data needed for CPE. One technique we identified to improve comparability was triangulation of data from different sources, be it publicly available data or data collected by the researcher.
Implications for policyPolicy decision-making could be improved by greater availability of comparative analysis research results.
Implications for researchThis work contributes to improving the methodology for the conduct of comparative policy analysis.
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
The impact of microeconomic factors (GFC) on alcohol and drug use and harms
Research team: Jenny Chalmers and Alison Ritter (NDARC)
Rationale and aimsThe implications of the global financial crisis continue to reverberate throughout the world, even as western economies slowly emerge from recession. There are concerns that the stress of living in such an environment will be detrimental for health and well-being; one pathway being self-medication with illicit drugs. We conducted a literature review and subsequent to that, some experimental analysis using the NDSHS data.
Key findingsLiterature review findings
- During times of economic decline, substance use may increase or decrease or not change. It may increase due to increases in levels of stress, greater impoverished circumstances and poor job prospects. At times of economic decline the informal economies: crime, sex work and drug dealing, are more likely to expand, resulting in greater availability of drugs. On the other hand, economic decline may be associated with decreased substance use largely due to reductions in purchasing power – alcohol and drug consumption is sensitive to income, and per capita income falls with economic decline.
- The strongest research evidence supports a relationship between alcohol use and economic decline: that is, economic decline is associated with lower alcohol consumption. The results for illicit drug use are less clear but appear to be in the reverse direction.
- Population wide participation in recent (within the last 12 months) use of cannabis and heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine is pro-cyclical, decreasing as the unemployment rate increases;
- whereas for existing drug users, the frequency of use bears no relationship with unemployment rate.
- The population wide findings do not necessarily hold for both men and women. Young women’s participation in drug use is reduced as unemployment rises, as is teenage women’s frequency of use of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. However the drug use of men younger than 35 is unresponsive to changes in the unemployment rate.
- Age impacts on these relationships. Participation in cannabis is pro-cyclical for older Australians, as is participation in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine among men in their 30’s. However, women’s cannabis frequency is countercyclical when in their early 20s.
Implications for policyThis ‘preliminary’ research suggests that the state of the economy matters for take up and cessation of drugs. Such knowledge is useful as part of an early warning system.
Implications for researchRigorous investigation of the importance of the various theoretical claims for the relationship between recession and illicit drug use necessitates following people over time. This would allow differentiation between the impacts of job loss, reduced income from work, reduced wealth, and increased anxiety about job loss and, for the longer term unemployed, the reduction in the opportunity to find work.
Another important area for further investigation is the consideration of underemployment alongside unemployment, where underemployment refers to insufficient hours of paid work amongst workers in part-time employment. A person is classified as employed if they work 1 hour in the reference week. Australia’s most recent economic boom, beginning in the early 1990s, saw a relatively stable underemployment rate alongside a steadily declining unemployment rate while the financial crisis induced economic slow-down has seen the underemployment rate rise more sharply than the unemployment rate. Although not suffering the same financial privation as the unemployed, underemployed workers have less income to allocate to drug use than the average full-time worker. Underemployment is concentrated amongst young people and women working in poorly paid part-time insecure jobs. This insecurity also potentially has implications for drug use.
The age-specific findings suggest the possibility that cohort effects on drug use are inadequately accounted for by the year of survey fixed effects. Furthermore, people’s relationship with the labour market and patterns of drug use vary by gender and stage of life-course. Further analysis is required to fully explicate these complex relationships between gender, age, cohort, stage in life-course, drug use and the state of the economy.
Chalmers, J., & Ritter, A. (2011). The business cycle and drug use in Australia: Evidence from repeated cross-sections of individual level data. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22(5), 341-52. Full text
Ritter, A., & Chalmers, J. (2011). The relationship between economic conditions and substance use and harm. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(1), 1–3. Full text
More information: email@example.com
Reducing the Methamphetamine Problem in Australia: Evaluating Innovative Partnerships Between Police, Pharmacies and Other Third Parties
Research team: Lorraine Mazerolle (University of Queensland), Janet Ransley, Julianne Webster and Jackie Drew (Griffith University)
Rationale and aimsPartnership approaches to policing drug problems range from loose coalitions between the police and other agencies, to third party policing where relevant ‘third parties’ are co-opted through the use of regulatory and legislative levers. This project explores the role of partnerships between the police and third parties (e.g. community pharmacies) in the prevention and reduction of the diversion of licit precursor chemicals. We compared and contrasted the adoption and implementation of an innovative partnership, Project STOP, in two different jurisdictions: Queensland and Victoria. We conducted a major survey of over 2000 community pharmacists in Queensland and Victoria. We also interviewed key stakeholders and undertook a legislative review of the reporting frameworks in Queensland and Victoria.
Key findingsOur analysis of the relevant regulatory and legal levers revealed that two distinct regulatory frameworks underpin Project STOP in Queensland and Victoria. The Queensland mandatory reporting model is a coercive ‘third party’ partnership and the Victorian model is a looser voluntary coalition between the police and pharmacies. Mandatory, as opposed to voluntary, recording by pharmacists of identification details of customers who purchase or attempt to purchase pseudoephedrine products helps the police keep track of potential “pseudo-runners:” people who shop for Cold and Flu tablets at many different pharmacies with the intent of diverting the tablets for illegal production of ATS. The contrasting regulatory frameworks played a pivotal role in the decision by police in both jurisdictions to invest in and pursue the partnership. Police in Queensland reported that the mandatory reporting requirement for pharmacists was the key factor for police engagement with Project STOP. Variations, however, occur at the local level where some police in Queensland forge close and productive partnerships with community pharmacists, whereas others fail to optimize the benefits of forging a working relationship.
Implications for policyOur research suggests that there are great benefits from legislating mandatory reporting of pseudo ephedrine sales by community pharmacists. Greater consistency is needed among the State and Federal governments in their approach to the control of methamphetamines and precursors. Both police and their community pharmacy partners are more engaged when there is a clear regulatory framework supporting their partnerships, rather than one dependant purely on vol untary cooperation. Moreover, the looser, voluntary model that prevails in Victoria misses an important opportunity to control the negative effects of pre-curser diversion. We also suggest that opportunities for displacement of drug crimes between the states are likely whilst Australia operates with different reporting regimes.
Our research also suggests that Project STOP helps facilitate the translation of individual sales data into useful police intelligence for the identification of trends, hotspots and patterns of activity in illicit or diverted pseudoephedrine products. The intelligence provided by mandatory or voluntary pseudo-ephedrine reporting systems, via the Project STOP database, can actually be incorporated into police operational decision-making. This helps police to effectively plan and launch covert police interventions.
Implications for researchWe plan to examine the spatial difference within both Queensland and Victoria, merging the reported crime incident data with the pharmacy data at the postcode level of analysis.
Manning, M., Ransley, J., Smith, C., Mazerolle, L., & Cook, A. (2012). Policing methamphetamine problems: A framework for synthesising expert opinion and evaluating alternative policy options. Journal of Public Policy.
Ransley, J., Mazerolle, L., Manning, M., McGuffog, I., Drew, J., & Webster, J. (2011). Reducing the Methamphetamine Problem in Australia: Evaluating Innovative Partnerships between Police, Pharmacies and Other Third Parties. Canberra: NDLERF.
Drew, J.M. (2011).Police responses to the methamphetamine problem: An analysis of the organizational and regulatory context. Police Quarterly, 14(2), 99-123.
Drew, J.M. (2010, September). Police responses to the methamphetamine problem: An analysis of the organizational and regulatory context. Presentation to ANZ Criminology Conference, Alice Springs.
Ransley, J. (2010, September). Reducing methamphetamine problems: the role of regulation. Presentation to ANZ Criminology Conference, Alice Springs.
Completed date: August 2011
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
An impact evaluation and economic evaluation of project STOP (third party policing)
Research team: Lorraine Mazerolle, Janet Ransley, Matt Manning, Ingrid McGuffog and Mitch Chamlin
Rationale and aims“Project STOP” is an initiative of the Queensland branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Queensland Police Service. In 2005 the QPS and Pharmacy Guild forged a partnership because they were concerned about the raft of problems associated with significant increases in the use and abuse of psycho-stimulant drugs, commonly known as Amphetamine Type Substances (or Stimulants), or ATS for short. Pseudoephedrine is found in a number of cold and flu tablets and can be diverted into the illegal manufacture of ATS. In 2007, Project STOP was rolled out nationally, supported by funding from the Federal government. It provides a convenient tool for pharmacists to comply with regulatory requirements and is mandated in some states in Australia. It can also be used to give police real-time intelligence about drug problems and hot-spots. Despite the national roll-out, Project STOP is used differently across the states and territories. This study sought to assess the impact of Project STOP on the methamphetamine problem in Queensland and Victoria, and to develop a framework for assessing its cost effectiveness. In terms of impact, we conducted interviews and measured the impact of the Project STOP intervention against a range of crime data. We also measured the impact on treatment outcomes, using data from the Alcohol and Other Drugs Treatment Services, National Minimum Data Set (AODTS-NMDS), July 2003 – June 2009 (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare). In both cases, time series analysis techniques are used.
We have also developed a method for conducting an economic analysis of Project STOP. This methodology involves comparison of alternative policy options from a cost-effectiveness perspective. The five options subject to analysis comprise: (1) Project STOP; (2) an outright ban on pseudoephedrine-based products sold in Australian pharmacies; (3) a prescription only model of products containing pseudoephedrine; (4) increased reactive policing responses; and (5) a do nothing model.
Key findingsInterviews with police and third parties suggest that restrictions on the availability of methamphetamines and their precursors work best when the state-based legislative and regulatory context supports partnerships between police and community pharmacists. We also find that Project STOP led to an increase in treatment seeking behavior in Queensland. Our interrupted time series analysis comparing the impact of Project STOP in Queensland and Victoria on reported incidents shows a weak, but statistically significant reduction in drug manufacturing as a result of the implementation of Project STOP in Queensland, but not in Victoria.
Implications for policyOur research suggests that there is value in mandating pharmacy reporting of pseudo-ephedrine sales. Greater use of Project STOP data by police would strengthen the impact of the intervention.
Implications for researchFurther analysis is needed using interrupted time series methods to explore methamphetamine manufacture trends over time. We also need to examine the spatial difference within both Queensland and Victoria, merging the reported crime incident data with the pharmacy compliance data at the postcode level of analysis.
Manning, M., Ransley, J., Mazerolle, L., & Smith, C. (2009, June). What works at what cost: a framework for evaluating the cost and relative utility of alternative policies to reduce the methamphetamine
problem. Presentation to the Stockholm Criminology Conference.
Mazerolle, L., Ransley, J., McGuffog, I., & Chamlin, M. (2011, October). The Impact of Third Party Policing on Crime Trends: A Time-Series Comparison of Different Regulatory Frameworks for Reporting
Precursor Sales in Queensland and Victoria. Presentation to the DPMP Team Meeting, Sydney.
American Society of Criminology Panel, Policing Precursors: Evaluating an Australian Third Party Policing Innovation. November 16-19, 2011 Washington D.C.
- Harvey, R. Transferring innovative policies: a case study of Project STOP
- McGuffog, I. Drug Treatment Seeking Behaviour: An Analysis of Behavioural Adaptations to a Third Party Policing Initiative
- Ransley, J. Exploring third party policing in the context of precursor regulation and control
- Webster, J. Precursor diversion control: how effective are third-party policing partnerships?
More information: email@example.com
Regulating Drinkers: Functions and Effects of Street Liquor Bans
Research team: Amy Pennay and Robin Room
Rationale and aimsOver the past ten years laws prohibiting public drinking have proliferated across urban centres in Australia. Despite this proliferation there have been few evaluations of their impact or effectiveness. This project attempted to address the following the research questions:
- What is the impetus for public drinking bans in urban areas, and who is responsible for decisions around implementation and enforcement of these bans?
- How do public drinking bans affect the way that alcohol is consumed in urban areas? For example, at licensed venues, in parks or in homes?
- Who is impacted (both positively and negatively) by public drinking bans? How are these impacts weighed against one another?
- What harms are public drinking bans intended to reduce and what is the evidence of their effectiveness in reducing such harms?
- Should public drinking bans continue to be supported by local and state governments?
Data collection involved a comprehensive literature review of public drinking ban evaluations and interviews with 18 local council officers and 6 police officers in Melbourne.
Key findingsLiterature Review: We identified only sixteen evaluations of urban public drinking bans (in thirteen locations in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand), none of which had been translated into a peer-review publication. The absence of an academic dialogue on the effectiveness and impacts of public drinking laws enacted in urban areas was surprising. The most common themes identified were that public drinking bans often resulted in negative impacts to marginalised groups, resulted in displacement, and improved perceptions of safety among the community. Themes that were noted but less pervasively were concerns about police enforcement and consistency, improvement in the aesthetics of an area (by removing drinkers and/or litter and glass), and variation between stakeholder groups in support of public drinking bans, ranging from strong support from police, traders and older people, through equivocal support from general community members, to disapproval from young people and Indigenous people. Finally, there was little or no evidence that public drinking bans reduced congregations of drinkers, were understood and adhered to by the community, or reduced alcohol-related crime. No information was available from any of the evaluations on whether public drinking bans reduced rates of alcohol-related harm.
Interviews: The second paper explored a number of themes that were drawn out of interviews with local council and police officers in Melbourne, Australia. In particular, this paper focused on two dichotomous narratives that underpinned the construction of public drinking laws. Firstly, public drinking laws were supported by some council and police officers because they enabled the maintenance of public order and maximised perceptions of safety among residents. Secondly, public drinking laws were contested by some council and police officers due to concerns about discrimination of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and confliction with personal ideologies of social equality. In attempting to understand these narratives, we drew on Lipsky’s (1980) analysis of the dilemmas faced by street-level bureaucrats. In particular, we explored the way that local government representatives and police officers attempted to negotiate the expectations of their professional role, their personal ideologies, and various impacts to the community, while also attempting to maintain the status quo, minimise social exclusion and maximise public order. In this sense, public drinking laws present a “wicked problem” (Rittel & Webber, 1973) and an anxiety-provoking social conundrum for often low-level and underpaid street-level bureaucrats.
Implications for policyThe evaluations reviewed were all lacking methodological rigor, making it difficult to conclude whether public drinking bans implemented in urban spaces have been effective or not. Our thematic analysis showed that at present, there is little evidence of public drinking bans reducing alcohol-related harm or benefitting the community. Alcohol policy must be evidence-based, and given this evidence is currently lacking, it is timely to ignite a debate about the continued implementation of public drinking laws, particularly bearing in mind the discrimination issues that are raised by such laws.
Implications for researchThe methodological limitations of the evaluations we identified made it impossible to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness or otherwise of public drinking bans. It is clear is that more rigorous evaluations of the usefulness and impacts of public drinking laws need to be undertaken given their continued proliferation across Australia and other Western countries.
Completed: June 2011
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regulatory compliance in alcohol sales; exploring the policy context of liquor licensing enforcement in Victoria
Research team: Claire Wilkinson and Sarah MacLean (Turning Point)
Rationale and aimsIn 2009 a civilian inspectorate to enforce liquor licensing legislation was established in Victoria, known as the Compliance Directorate of Responsible Alcohol Victoria (RAV). Previously, the police had primary responsibility for enforcing the liquor licensing legislation. Understanding how the Compliance Directorate was implemented and assessing its effectiveness are potentially important contributions to the evidence base for alcohol policies.
Key findingsThe Directorate has substantially improved enforcement of administrative provisions of license conditions. In a climate where previously very little liquor license enforcement existed, the Directorate has been required to negotiate conflicting views on appropriate approaches to regulation, potentially undermining its capacity to pose a real threat of enforcement action for licensees who are in breach of their obligations. While civilian inspectors promote a better regulated alcohol industry, evidence indicates that provisions prohibiting sales to minors and the intoxicated (with greatest potential to impact on alcohol-associated harm) remain insufficiently enforced.
Implications for policyActive enforcement of licensing provisions should be a policy priority with particular focus on enforcement of provisions concerning sales to minors and the intoxicated.
Implications for researchThe Compliance Directorate is now being amalgamated into a new body charged with enforcing both gambling and liquor licensing. Research should be conducted to identify impacts of this merger. Turning Point will build on this program of research through collaboration with Dr Grazyna Zajdow (Deakin University) in examining the impact of the Save Live Music campaign on licensing policy in Victoria; and a Criminology Honours student placement to undertake a study of decisions by the Victorian Civil Administrative Appeals Tribunal, identifying what arguments have been successful in achieving decisions which will have the effect of restricting alcohol availability.
Completed: April 2011
MacLean, S., & Wilkinson, C. (2010, November). Police and civil models for enforcement of liquor licensing provisions in Victoria, Australia. 69th Alcohol Problems Research Symposium, Stonecross Manor Hotel, Kendal, United Kingdom.
Wilkinson, C. & MacLean, S. (2010, November). Enforcing Alcohol Availability: The introduction of liquor licensing inspectors in Victoria, Australia. Kettil Bruun Society Thematic Meeting Kampala, Uganda.
Wilkinson, C. & MacLean, S. (2011, March). Early years of the Victorian Compliance Directorate: challenges for alcohol licensing and enforcement. Drug Policy Modelling Program Research Symposium, Sydney.
Wilkinson, C. & MacLean, S. (2011, April). Views on civilian licensing enforcement: The Victorian Compliance Directorate, 37th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society, Melbourne.
More information email@example.com
The application of social network analysis (SNA) to law enforcement strategies in combating illicit drug markets
Research team: David Bright
(NDARC) and Catherine Greenhill (School of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW)
Rationale and aims Drug law enforcement (DLE) agencies within Australia and internationally strive to disrupt illicit drug markets as one way of managing addiction. The current project aims to evaluate the capacity of interventions driven by Social Network Analysis (SNA) to be effective in dismantling such networks. Based on a robust and systematic case study application of SNA we will evaluate the usefulness of the methodology and outcomes in disrupting and dismantling criminal networks.
Aims: (1) determine whether criminal networks (case examples) are scale-free; (2) Examine the impact of degree targeted attack (i.e., target the hubs) vs. random attack.
- Three data sources: Court transcripts will be ordered through the NSW Attorney General’s Department (or equivalent in other States); DPP records will be requested via the Department of Public Prosecutions; Judges’ sentencing comments will be accessed via court websites (publically accessible)
- The transcripts/files/sentencing comments will be read in detail and relevant information will be extracted (e.g., information regarding roles, relative status of individuals, activities, and the nature of relationships or connections between individuals).
- The social network analysis will then be conducted using the software programs Ucinet 6 and Visone. These programs are commonly used by academic researchers to conduct SNA, including the application of SNA to criminal networks.
- A network map will be constructed to represent the individuals (nodes) and the connections between individuals (ties).
- a number of measures which will be calculated to describe the structure of the network, and to determine the key players in the network (e.g., degree centrality, betweenness centrality, eigenvector centrality, network density). The measures will provide insight into the main players within the network and areas of weakness which can be exploited by law enforcement to make effective arrests.
- Hypothetical enforcement scenarios will be tested via simulation. For example, we will examine the impact of removing a particular individual (or set of individuals) from the network (to simulate arrest), or the impact of adding an individual (e.g., an informant) into the network.
- The analyses will include an exploration of the extent to which criminal networks are scale-free (Barabasi & Albert, 1999). The results will instruct law enforcement on the likely impact of specific interventions on drug trafficking networks.
Key findingsData were collected and analyzed throughout 2011. Social network analyses were conducted and law enforcement simulations were tested. The results offer law enforcement agencies some guidance in determining the most effective strategies for dismantling criminal networks.
Completed: December 2011
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
A literature review of the epidemiology and interventions research for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people with alcohol, drug and/or mental health problems
Research team: Alison Ritter
, Francis Matthew-Simmons
, Natacha Carragher
Rationale and aims This project was commissioned by NSW Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office. It is known that rates of alcohol and other drug use, as well as rates of common mental health disorders are more prevalent amongst GLBT people. No systematic review of Australian data has been undertaken to date. In addition, despite acknowledgment of higher rates of problems, there has been no systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions tailored for GLBT people. It is important that responses to the problems faced by these populations (including a higher risk of drug use and mental health problems) are informed by research evidence.
This project sought to conduct a systematic review of the rate of problematic alcohol and other drug use and mental health problems amongst GLBT; and a review of the effectiveness of interventions directed towards mental health or alcohol and other drug disorders amongst GLBT people.
Methods/designA systematic search was undertaken of the Medline, PsycINFO, IBSS, and Embase databases. The search terms were selected according to three primary domains: sexual orientation, drug use, and mental health. In relation to epidemiological research, the search located a total of 177 studies that reported prevalence data in relation to MH or AOD, or both. Of these, 78 were international studies which did not have a heterosexual comparison group. Seventy-six were international studies which did have a heterosexual comparison group. In addition to the international literature, the search located 23 Australian studies that reported prevalence data. Thirty-eight studies were excluded on the basis that the members of their samples were either all drug users, or had a current mental health diagnosis. Seventeen studies were not able to be obtained. The search also located 69 previous literature reviews, commentary pieces, or meta-analyses.
For the review of interventions, a total of 121 articles, reports and papers were sourced and reviewed that described interventions with GLBT people. Of these, the majority were AOD (47%), with the remaining being MH (26%), followed by descriptive pieces regarding adolescent development and treatment needs without specifying a target behaviour, workforce development papers and a handful on policy interventions. In the main, there were few studies that were directly comparative of GLBT and non-GLBT treatment approaches.
Results to dateWe have summarised and reviewed the international epidemiological literature on GLB and mental health and AOD. For Australia, we have conducted original analyses of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being, and used data analysis completed by colleagues at NDARC from the NDS Household Survey. In summary, all the Australian data confirms the international epidemiological evidence – elevated rates of mental health problems and alcohol or other drug dependencies are observed. Prevention is a priority principle with GLBT people; both AOD and MH problems are preventable, and interventions are likely to reduce the risk of later mental health or substance misuse problems. Preventing discrimination and stigma is also an essential aspect of any comprehensive approach to reducing AOD and MH problems amongst GLBT. All AOD and MH services should be GLBT-sensitive. This entails ensuring an adequately trained workforce, culturally appropriate services and a non-judgemental attitude by all staff across the service. The variety of treatment interventions, such as CBT, motivational interviewing, 12 step programs and the community reinforcement approach have all been shown to be effective with GLBT individuals.
OutputsRitter, A., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Carragher, N. (2012). Why the alcohol and other drug community should support gay marriage. Drug and Alcohol Review, 31(1), 1-3.
Ritter, A., Matthew-Simmons, F., & Carragher, N. (2012). Monograph No. 23: Prevalence of and interventions for mental health and alcohol and other drug problems amongst the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community: A review of the literature. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.