What is Demand Reduction?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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Demand reduction aims to decrease the use of illegal drugs through education and treatment tailored for at-risk populations and the general public. It is one of three strategies to deal with the social, economic, and health consequences of the illicit drug trade. The other two components of the policy include supply reduction and harm reduction.

Educational programs in schools that warn of the dangers of drug use commonly fall under demand reduction policies. Law enforcement agencies may participate in school and community organizations to provide information about illegal substances and trends in illegal drug use. Police officers might also serve as advisors to people who work in drug prevention programs or treatment centers, keeping them abreast of emerging drugs that enter the illegal marketplace.

Rehabilitation and detoxification programs represent another component of demand reduction tactics. Detox programs allow drug addicts to ease withdrawal symptoms to help them kick their drug habits. Giving heroin addicts methadone at specialized clinics describes one form of this demand reduction strategy. Residential rehabilitation centers represent another method of demand reduction.

The premise also includes addressing risk in communities where drug use is high. This might include providing job opportunities in areas with a high unemployment rate. The recognition of cultural or social reasons people use drugs is another aspect of demand reduction commonly studied and addressed.


Supply reduction aims to stem the flow of drugs by stopping drug trafficking. Intelligence is used to interrupt the movement of drugs transported by air, sea, or land, and imprison those who profit from the sale of illegal substances. Some regions make it illegal to buy the chemicals to manufacture certain drugs as part of their supply reduction policies.

Harm reduction is employed in some areas to deal with the consequences of drug abuse. Programs that provide clean needles to intravenous drug addicts incorporate a way to keep the drug abuser healthy until he or she seeks a long-term solution. Harm reduction policies are often called the humane approach to drug addiction.

Many countries have recognized the need to include demand reduction in efforts to deal with drug abuse. All the countries that belong to the United Nations have adopted a policy to increase national, regional, and international efforts to balance demand supply with reduction supply goals. The declaration between nations recognizes the need to invest in policies within the educational, social, health, and political arenas that reduce the number of people using illegal drugs.


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