Illicit drug use, harm reduction and the community

  • Research program:
  • Project status: Completed
  • Start date: November 1993
  • Expected end date: December 1994
  • Completion date: January 1995
  • Funded by: RPI Funds
  • Lead organisation:

A telephone survey was undertaken of the of the knowledge and attitudes of 400 members of the general public regarding the provision of needles and syringes (N&S) to injecting drug users (IDUs) and the possibility of changing the laws relating to cannabis, as strategies to reduce the harm associated with illicit drug use in the community. The aims were to: assess the knowledge and attitudes of a sample of the Western Australian community regarding the decriminalisation of cannabis and strategies to reduce the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses, specifically Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), through sharing of injecting equipment by IDUs; determine what effect giving respondents information about the provision of N&S as a harm reduction strategy had on their knowledge and attitudes; identify areas for community education to support N&S provision as a community harm reduction initiative; and contribute to the community debate about the possibility of changing the laws which apply to cannabis. The majority of the respondents broadly understood the rationale behind the harm reduction approach, agreed with its principles and were even more supportive when the rationale was explained. Most were aware of the potential for spread of blood-borne viruses, notably HIV, through the sharing of injecting equipment and were supportive of providing needles to drug injectors and changing the laws related to cannabis possession and use. This support existed across the political spectrum, and from both metropolitan and country respondents.

Name & Contact Details Role Research Program Location
Placeholder image

Professor Simon Lenton
Tel: 61 (0)8 9266 1603
View profile

Chief Investigator

Harm reduction policy and strategies


Lenton, S. and Ovenden, C. (1996). Community attitudes to cannabis use in Western Australia. Journal of Drug Issues, 26, (4), pp. 783-804. [RJ194]

Lenton, S. (1994). Illicit drug use, harm reduction and the community: attitudes to cannabis law and needle and syringe provision in WA. National Centre for Research into the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Division of Health Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia. [T45]