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What is meant by ‘supply reduction’ and ‘demand reduction’? To what extent can demand reduction alone provide an effective response to illegal drug use?

Drug abuse is a global problem. It affects every country, although the extent and characteristics vary considerably. Drug abuse trends especially amongst young people have started to converge over the last few decades. This essay will look at supply reduction and demand reduction and try to establish if demand reduction programmes alone are effective as a method of curbing drug abuse or whether an approach integrating the two is preferable.

Supply reduction programmes are characterised by domestic law enforcement efforts, source country programmes, and the attempt to stop or disrupt the flow of illicit drugs into a country at the borders or overseas. Demand reduction entails drug treatments and prevention programmes and seeks to discourage people from trying illegal substances or attempts to encourage existing drug users to stop, through rehabilitation and social reintegration. Fleckenstein et al (2005)

The deterrent effect of law enforcement efforts affects the demand for illegal drugs. The risk of penal sanctions may act as a deterrent to people who have never tried drugs, though the risk of such sanctions does not always deter drug addicts who need drugs whatever the consequences. Collaboration between the criminal justice system and the treatment or health care system in the form of drug courts and similar programmes is found in many different countries. Cross-training among the various professional disciplines involved is critical to the success of such joint programmes. Inciardi (1990)

Demand reduction programmes are important in helping individuals develop the personal and social skills required to make informed and healthy choices regarding their drug dependency. Whilst demand reduction efforts are useful and have had a certain level of success there is a vast amount of evidence emerging from research initiatives that would suggest that in the wider picture of a global drug problem, both methods should be integrated and used simultaneously with the relevant agencies involved working in collaboration, this would appear to be the most effective technique of tackling the drug problem as opposed to demand reduction alone.

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