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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:10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.02.003) (KAR id:29906)

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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
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.02.003
Uncontrolled keywords: Drug policy, Rights, Harm
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV5800 Drug habits and abuse
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Taryn Duhig
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2012 12:36 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Stevens, Alex:
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