Australian Institute of Criminology

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The use of modelling to inform illicit drug policy : examples from the Drug Policy Modelling Program

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith, ACT
17 September 2008

Assoc Prof Alison Ritter
Director, Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

Presentation overview

Good policy is presumed to be based on a solid evidence base. How we assess, judge, and weight that evidence reflects disciplinary preference and values. New methods and approaches are required to deliver the promise of evidence-based policy. The difficulty, of course, is in creating the kinds of evidence that can contribute meaningfully to a policy choice process. Much academic research seeks answers to questions that are marginal to policy choices. In addition, the results of research infrequently make it to the desks of policymakers. The Drug Policy Modelling Program is exploring the use of models as another way of generating policy-relevant evidence. Models can portray the relationships between key variables, are useful for scenario testing, and create the opportunity for dialogue and debate. This paper will present the rationale for models as a tool in policymaking and describe two models currently in use: a system-dynamics model of pharmacotherapy maintenance, and an agent-based model of drug markets. The advantages and disadvantages of using models as part of evidence-informed policy will be explored.

The presenter

Alison Ritter is an Associate Professor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and is the director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program. The program is being conducted in collaboration with scholars from The Australian National University, Griffith University, and the Burnet Institute. The goal of the work is to advance illicit-drug policy by improving the evidence base, developing new tools for policy decision-making, and understanding the best mix of policy options (law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction) and the ways in which these different policy options dynamically interact. A/Prof Ritter is Executive Editor of the Drug and Alcohol Review, President of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol & Drugs, and Vice-President of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy.