Secondary harm mitigation: A more humanitarian framework for international drug law enforcement

Jarrett Blaustein, Miki McLay, Jude McCulloch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article introduces the concept of ‘secondary harm mitigation’ as a framework for improving the humanitarian credentials of international drug law enforcement agencies. The concept is rooted in a critical analysis of the compatibility of the harm reduction philosophy with Australia's international drug law enforcement practices. On a utilitarian level, the net benefits of international drug law enforcement are determined to be, at best inconclusive, arguably counterproductive and in most cases, incalculable. On a humanitarian level, international drug law enforcement is also determined to be problematic from a criminological standpoint because it generates secondary harms and it is indifferent to the vulnerability of individuals who participate in illicit drug trafficking. Accordingly, the article concludes that a philosophy of harm reduction grounded in the public health perspective is inadequate for mitigating secondary harms arising from Australia's efforts to combat international illicit drug trafficking. A tentative list of secondary harm mitigation principles is presented and the article argues that secondary harm mitigation should replace supply reduction as a core tenet of Australia's National Drug Strategy. The article also concludes that secondary harm mitigation may provide a viable framework for stimulating a productive dialogue between those who advocate prohibition and those who call for decriminalisation at the global level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Australia
  • Drug law enforcement
  • Harm reduction
  • LEPH
  • Policing
  • Secondary harm mitigation
  • Supply reduction

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