The European Union Drugs Strategy 2013-2020

A meeting was held in Brussels on September 19, hosted by the Public Policy Exchange. The day provided an opportunity for reflection on the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 and to hear a range of views on how things are moving forward policy wise in Europe.

Professor David Nutt (Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs) presented his UK and European Research on drug harms, and Franz Trautmann (Head of Unit, International Affairs at the Trimbos Institute) spoke about changing drug use and availability trends. Both inputs provided a well received response for a need to reconsider current drug policy in Europe and internationally. The message was a request for focus on the reality of drug use rather than a political “emotional” response to drug related issues.

The input from the Anti-Drugs Policy Unit of DG Justice at the European Commission provided a useful overview of the new Strategy. It reflected a growing awareness for political responses that reflected the evidence base for policy and practice that would combat the problems that drugs presented both at the supply and demand reduction levels.

Fay Watson (EURAD) offered a well balanced input to suggest the need to consult with all stakeholders active in the drugs field, including civil society, in order to provide a balanced and broad response to the issues presented by drug use. The request was for responses which did not polarise people into different “camps” but acknowledged the need for a range of responses to meet the different needs of target groups.

The overall response of the audience appeared to be that whilst there were some positive moves forward, for example in respect of the need to place more emphasis on treatment and prevention and to address the issue from the perspective of health rather than law and order, the policy was still not radical enough to reflect the current need for change.

From a “Quality Standards” perspective it was interesting that increased investment in prevention still remained the recipe for the way forward. It was acknowledged that the actions that are undertaken and funded should be based on scientific evidence and with a focus on quality standards. However, no particular reference was given to the work of the Prevention Standards Partnership in developing European Drug Prevention Quality Standards or to other activities in this area, or to the ERANID agenda for identifying agreed European priorities for research in the drugs field. One was left with the feeling that the words on the need for sound research and application of quality standards still need to be translated from theory and sound bites and applied more visibly in practice.

Jeff Lee
Project Manager, European Drug Prevention Quality Standards Phase 2
Project Officer, ERANID
Centre for Public Health
Liverpool John Moores University