Drugs Futures was formed to bridge scientific views and evidence with public concerns and aspirations.
In 2006, the Academy of Medical Sciences was invited by the Government to undertake an independent review of the social, health, safety and environmental issues raised by scientific advances in brain science, addiction and drugs. The Academy convened an expert working group to take this study forward. Drugs Futures was commissioned as part of this extensive consultation so that the final recommendations could be informed by both scientific evidence and public concerns and aspirations.
The aims of the project were to:
• Provide opportunities for the public to discuss issues related to brain science, addiction and drugs
• Identify areas of consensus, disagreement or uncertainty on a broad range of issues, and explore initial views and changes in opinion
• Inform the final recommendations made by the working group for public policy and research needs
Drugs Futures engaged a broad cross-section of the public, including young people, drug users, and older adults (who are often excluded from debates on these topics). The project covered three categories of substance:
• ‘Recreational’ drugs
• Medicines for mental health
• Cognition enhancers
• An online consultation
• ‘Brainbox’ a deliberative workshop with sessions at the start and end of the project
• Five regional one-day deliberative workshops on drugs and the law, young people, society, drugs for a smarter brain, and for mental health
• Smaller outreach meetings with specific groups, e.g. teachers, students, ex-users, and carers
• Workshops with hard-to-reach groups involved in previous engagement projects
The two strands of the project ‘expert and public’ were integrated from the outset. The expert working group explained to participants at the start of each event that their views would form part of a report which would be seriously considered to government and could have a real impact on policy.
• Members of the expert working group were able to hear participants’ views at first hand and use what they heard to shape their thinking and final conclusions.
• Drugs Futures provided the Academy with further experience of how to incorporate engagement into a working group process.
• Integrating the expert and public discussions ensured that there was a ‘home’ for the Drugs Futures findings and meant that participants’ views were valued.
Project Manager: Dr Robert Frost, Academy of Medical Sciences Email: Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 020 7969 5284
Project Manager: Diane Beddoes, Office for Public Management Email: DBeddoes@opm.co.uk
Tel: 020 7239 7841
Gather individual pre-existing opinions
Gather informed and considered opinions (deliberation)
Self selected participants attending as individuals (open access process)
Representatives of wider interest groups (stakeholders)
Level of awareness and interest
participants know about some aspects/can roughly articulate some interest
participants are well informed and can articulate their interests
Health and well-being
Limit search to...
... face to face processes
Level of involvement