Interpersonal violence and illicit drug use are major public health challenges that are strongly linked. Involvement in drug use can increase the risks of being both a victim and/or perpetrator of violence, while experiencing violence can increase the risks of initiating illicit drug use. Debate continues as to whether the relationship between drugs and violence is causal or an association, with the two being linked through shared risk factors. The impacts of drug-related interpersonal violence can be substantial, damaging individuals’ health and the cohesion and development of communities, whilst also shifting resources from other priorities, particularly within health and criminal justice services. Globally, interpersonal violence accounts for around half a million deaths per year (1); for every death there are many more victims affected by violence physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially. Illicit drugs are used by millions of individuals throughout the world, and both their effects and the nature of illicit drug markets place major burdens on health and society (2-4).

This briefing summarises the links between interpersonal violence and illicit drug use, identifies risk factors for involvement in drug-related violence, outlines prevention measures that address drug-related violence, and explores the role of public health in prevention. It discusses links between drugs and violence based on available evidence, focusing primarily on illicit drugs. In general, the illicit use of prescription drugs is not discussed and the links between alcohol and violence have been covered elsewhere (5).

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