UnBounded Knowledge: Envisioning a New Future for Drug Policy Research

Drug policy research is a vibrant, interdisciplinary field with the potential to inform innovative new practices and policies. Nonetheless, despite a large number of researchers focused on drugs and people who use them, this research field faces significant constraints. Limitations include: 1) biases due in part to the current funding landscape; 2) systemic methodological weaknesses; 3) an over-emphasis on outcomes framed by an abstinence-only or prohibitionist framework; and 4) a lack of organizations or individuals communicating between the disparate disciplines involved in drug policy. In addition, researchers often do not have the skills, resources, or incentives needed to make their work accessible to broader audiences, such as the media, policymakers, and the public at large.

For our first event in 2017, we convened 25 researchers in the field of drug policy research who reflected diverse disciplines, points in their career, institutional settings, methodological approaches, and content areas. Over the course of the day, attendees conceived a visionary research agenda unbounded by funding and political concerns. Below, you can view the outcomes, as well as an article published in Contemporary Drug Problems about developing a transformative drug policy research agenda. 

Summary of Constraints in Current Research Environment (PDF)

Summary of Factors which could help Transform Drug Policy Research (PDF)

View the article – Walker, I., & Netherland, J. (2018). Developing a Transformative Drug Policy Research Agenda in the United States. Contemporary Drug Problems.

In 2019, we hosted our first research incubator, where we brought together researchers to create innovative pilot projects on the topic of pleasurable and self-regulating drug use. These projects are now in the development phase. This year, we will host our second research incubator to develop novel research projects on how people use and procure drugs. Through these incubators, we aim to create an exciting, creative session wherein scholars from a breadth of fields come together to generate research ideas to advance our understanding in ways that could best influence policy change.