Getting evidence into drug policy: how can structures and processes help?

Ms Nicola Singleton

Drug Policy Research

Nicola is Director of Policy and Research at the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), which is a charitably-funded organisation established to provide objective analysis of UK drug policy and encourage greater use of evidence in drug policy and practice. The UKDPC had considered the evidence within a range of areas, including projects looking at taking a harm-focused approach to enforcement and highlighting the impact of stigma towards drug users and their families on their recovery and the course of their drug problems. The findings from all this research has been pulled together in a recent report entitled A Fresh Approach to Drugs and this is being complemented by a final project looking at the structures and process by which drug policy is made in the UK and how these might be improved.

Nicola joined UKDPC from the Home Office in June 2007. During the previous four years, while at the Home Office, she had responsibility for research and performance monitoring across the full range of drug policy areas.  Prior to this, Nicola worked at the Office for National Statistics conducting a range of national surveys and research studies of mental health and drug use and as a researcher in a local health authority in the field of public health.

Getting evidence into drug policy: how can structures and processes help?

Nicola Singleton, Director of Policy & Research.

Address:        UK Drug Policy Commission, London, N1 9AG.

Theme: The research base for policy

Conflicts of interest: None


Most people recognise the importance of policy being based on the best available evidence but in practice this can be easier said than done. There is often a gulf between policy-makers and researchers that is difficult to bridge. This paper aims to highlight the lessons from the work of UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) concerning the challenges to the use of evidence in the drugs field and how these might be more effectively addressed to deliver better policy-making.


This paper draws on both the UKDPC wider experience of undertaking and disseminating evidence reviews and a research project focused on drug policy governance. This project used documentary analysis, expert consultation through a modified Delphi process, interviews and round table discussions with researchers, policy influencers and leading politicians, and commissioned essays.


Key considerations for the use of evidence in policy-making and a number of strengths and weaknesses in current processes, including the role of ‘producer’ interests in drug policy making, have been identified. Based on this and examples from other countries and policy areas, options for developing a more coherent and co-ordinated approach to evidence-generation and analysis and for facilitating greater use of the evidence in the drug policy field are presented, which have relevance to the wider addictions field.


There are a range of challenges in encouraging greater use of evidence within policy-making and oversight, which need to be addressed by both policy makers and researchers in order to deliver more effective policy. New and improved structures and processes could help overcome many of these challenges.