UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding conventional and novel approaches used to advance evidence-based illicit drug policy González Montaner, Michaela Rosa


A considerable amount of research has shown traditional illicit drug policies represent a critical source of inequity and ongoing health-related harms on a global scale. The harms associated with these policies have spurred several calls for “evidence-based” policy reform whereby policies that criminalize drug users be replaced with public health approaches. These calls for policy reform, and the persistence of criminal justice based approaches, have raised questions about the strategies and tools scientists, researchers, academics and/or health practitioners may mobilize to support this objective (herein referred to collectively as scientists). In this context, the primary objectives of this thesis were to: 1) synthesize what is known about conventional activities and strategies scientists use to advance evidence-based drug policies and 2) to describe and evaluate in detail the Vienna Declaration campaign, the largest scientist-led mobilization to support evidence-based illicit drug policy to date, and 3) to generate insights into strategies that may support the advancement of evidence-based illicit drug policy, especially as they related to public and political discourse. This work reveals scientist-led efforts to promote evidence-based drug policy have not traditionally made use of the Internet and related tools. Findings from an analysis of the Vienna Declaration campaign reveal that the Internet and social media are important dissemination tools that support science-based efforts to advance evidence-based drug policy. Given the deficit of research in this area and long-standing limitations to scientists’ proficiency engaging the public, media, and policymakers, the thesis concludes additional research is needed to better understand the tools and strategies available to scientists working in this area. It speculates that such a research agenda may also serve as a culturally appropriate way of engaging scientists and influencing their future knowledge translation efforts.

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