Drug policy, harm and human rights: A rationalist approach

Stevens, Alex (2011) Drug policy, harm and human rights: A rationalist approach. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22 (5). pp. 399-403. ISSN 0955-3959. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.02.003) (Full text available)

PDF - Publisher pdf
Download (203kB) Preview
Official URL


Background: It has recently been argued that drug-related harms cannot be compared, so making it impossible to choose rationally between various drug policy options. Attempts to apply international human rights law to this area are valid, but have found it difficult to overcome the problems in applying codified human rights to issues of drug policy. Method: This article applies the rationalist ethical argument of Gewirth (1978) to this issue. It outlines his argument to the ‘principle of generic consistency’ and the hierarchy of basic, nonsubtractive and additive rights that it entails. It then applies these ideas to drug policy issues, such as whether there is a right to use drugs, whether the rights of drug ‘addicts’ can be limited, and how different harms can be compared in choosing between policies. Result: There is an additive right to use drugs, but only insofar as this right does not conflict with the basic and nonsubtractive rights of others. People whose freedom to choose whether to use drugs is compromised by compulsion have a right to receive treatment. They retain enforceable duties not to inflict harms on others. Policies which reduce harms to basic and nonsubtractive rights should be pursued, even if they lead to harms to additive rights. Conclusion: There exists a sound, rational, extra-legal basis for the discussion of drug policy and related harms which enables commensurable discussion of drug policy options.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Drug policy, Rights, Harm
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV5800 Drug use and miuse
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Taryn Duhig
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2012 12:36 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2017 15:21 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/29906 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year