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

First published: 29 March 2019 | Last updated: 21 May 2019

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.


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Nicola Singleton