The Relationship between the legal status of drug possession and the criminalization of marginalized drug users: A literature review
Keywords:decriminalization, addiction, recovery, poisoning, repeat offending
The longstanding association between addiction, crime, and mortality has become increasingly severe in Canada, affecting larger numbers of individuals and communities. Diverse and irreconcilable courses of action have been proposed involving the decriminalization of drug possession, expanded resources to promote recovery from addiction, or both. The current review used the PICOTS method to identify peer-reviewed publications that reported outcomes of reducing the criminal consequences of drug possession and the specific relationship between law reform and the well-being of people who are at greatest risk for poisoning. We separately included notable reports and grey literature discussing outcomes associated with the Portuguese National Drug Strategy. Over 2,500 articles were retrieved from three databases, with six meeting all inclusion/exclusion criteria. An additional five manuscripts were retrieved specific to Portugal. The evidence reviewed indicates that drug decriminalization alone is associated with potential harms to drug users and their communities, and that potential benefits may be realized when law reform is closely coordinated with the provision of evidence-based resources that promote recovery from addiction. The evidence summarized in this review supports careful consideration of the factors necessary to promote social reintegration among people who are at highest risk for drug-related harms, including repeated criminal offending and death.
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