What we’re doing: As drug policies shift around the world, we are working to help national and international stakeholders set the right targets and evaluate what matters. Specifically, we are developing evidence-based methods to examine the impacts of drugs and drug policies on health, peace and security, development and human rights.

Why we’re doing it: National and international governments have prioritized a small group of indicators when evaluating drug policy. These include the number and volume of illicit drug seizures, number of drug-related arrests and incarcerations, and price and purity of illicit drugs. Decades of scientific research, however, demonstrate that these indicators fail to capture the complex ways in which drugs and drug policy impact communities.

In order for drug policy to improve individual and community health and safety, we must measure outcomes of relevance to communities. These include factors such as:

  • Access to both addictions treatment and harm reduction services;
  • The transmission of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C;
  • Levels of fatal overdose;
  • Drug-related violence; and,
  • Human rights violations by governments, law enforcement, treatment providers and other groups.

How we’re doing it:

  • The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), housed at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, is focused on the development of evidence-based drug policy.
  • In advance of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem in April 2016, the ICSDP convened ten global scientific leaders to co-author an open letter, also published as a correspondence in The Lancet, calling on national and international stakeholders (including UN member states and agencies) to prioritize indicators related to the impact of drugs and drug policies on communities.
  • To inform our work, the ICSDP created an accessible online survey through which community members identified the drug policy priorities most important to them.
  • The ICSDP is designing a framework to measure the impacts and evaluate the effectiveness of cannabis policy reform in Canada. The objective is to retrospectively assess the impact of changes in cannabis policy on drug-related outcomes broadly (i.e., not restricted to cannabis use) and on the composition and nature of Canada’s illegal drug market. The ultimate aim is to develop a template that can be adopted by governments to assess the impact of cannabis policy reform.

Our partners:

  • Governments of Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada
  • United Nations University
  • Global Drug Policy Observatory/Swansea University
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Drug Policy Consortium
  • New Zealand Drug Foundation
  • Transform Drug Policy Foundation

For more information: Please contact Nazlee Maghsoudi at: nmaghsoudi@icsdp.org.


Open Letter: A Call for a Reprioritization of Metrics to Evaluate Illicit Drug Policy. Werb, Dan et al. International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. January 2016.

A call to reprioritise metrics to evaluate illicit drug policy. Werb, Dan et al. The Lancet, Volume 387, Issue 10026, 1371.

To Change Drug Policy, First Change the Way You Measure It. International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. Huffington Post. January 22, 2016.