Why Being Honest About Drug-Related Risk Might Be the Best Public Health Policy Ever

Last year over 100,000 people took part in GDS2015 and helped us produce the world’s first safer use limits for an illicit (though increasingly legal) drug — cannabis (http://www.saferuselimits.co) . For many people the notion of describing a spectrum of drug related harm related to the use of an illicit harm is difficult to accommodate. It is the antithesis of many government’s chosen banner of zero tolerance which is totally consistent with the reason they state drugs are illegal — that they are dangerous and bad for your health. Although the FDA may still being plying that message many other parts of the USA are not. So as America enters an age of enlightenment and repeals cannabis drug laws across its vast landscape I thought the idea of safer drug use limits might be of interest (Winstock 2014).

I first had the idea of developing safe drug using limits when I was trainee at the Institute of Psychiatry in the late 1990s. I wanted to develop them as a way of creating a positive dialogue around drug use and encouraging people to reflect on their consumption objectively. My boss at the time told me this was a daft idea and I was strongly advised against pursuing it. Anyway the idea never quite went away because it never seemed that unwise to me. Here’s why.

Guidelines exist for the world’s most dangerous drug, alcohol. These were developed to help people and health care professionals have some idea what different level of drinking might be associated with low risk, moderate risk and high risk of harm. They are based on huge and evolving evidence and although recent epidemiological data has probably underplayed the risks for cancer, dementia and heart disease, properly used (e.g. within the context of brief —> Read More