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National programmes for the reduction of drug demand: first report
In response to the request made at the European Council meeting in Dublin on 25 and 26 June 1990, the Commission presented a report on work done on drug demand reduction in the Member States.
Commission Communication of 8 November 1990 concerning a report on national programmes for drug demand reduction in the European Community [COM(90) 527 final - Not published in the Official journal].
Responsibility for drug policies is divided up between national, regional and local levels in each Member State. In most Member States policies and general guidelines are established at national level, while the implementation of actions is the responsibility of regional or local bodies. There is a willingness to keep a balance between a decentralised approach involving innovative local activities and the necessity to have a minimum coordination of policies.
The funding of these actions reflects the distribution of responsibilities, but in some Member States levels of Government funding are enhanced by substantial contributions from the non-government sector (in Greece, for example). In several Member States the total levels of funding have shown a substantial increase due to the additional threat of AIDS.
It is difficult to compare the levels and trends of drug use because each Member State uses different methodologies and definitions for data collection and in some cases no consistent data collection effort has been implemented (in the United Kingdom in particular). It is difficult to estimate the total number of drug users since many do not seek help nor come into contact with the authorities. However, on the basis of the data available on the number of known drug users, many Member States have experienced an increase in their number in recent years. In some Member States there are reports of a stabilisation in the overall number of users, in particular for heroin. There is also evidence in some Member States that the use of cocaine and new drugs is increasing.
In most Member States the legal provisions favour the therapeutic approach for drug users. This may be voluntary or compulsory (an alternative to prison). In some Member States there is a tendency to increase the penalties for drug possession or use. With regard to the regulations concerning detoxification and substitution treatments, the awareness of the role of intravenous drug abuse as a risk factor for AIDS infection has led to specific decisions such as the authorisation of methadone as a substitution treatment or the liberalisation of the sale of syringes.
Member States have increased their efforts to prevent drug abuse by implementing coordinated, continuous and structured preventive actions in response to a rapidly evolving situation, but only a few countries have made use of the mass media in their information campaigns.
Treatment structures vary considerably from one Member State to another, ranging from formally structured institutions to voluntary associations. The risk of AIDS transmission has prompted Member States to adopt more flexible approaches in an attempt to reach drug users in their environment and to make help available to them without requiring them to give up drugs first. The balance between health and social services varies between the Member States. The mental health care system also plays a role in some countries.
The awareness of the need for funding and manpower resources has emerged only recently and therefore the structures are not very well developed. There is an urgent need for staff. Special priority and financial resources must also be given to research, which has suffered up to now from the lack of coordination.
Member States' approaches vary widely and are constantly evolving. They are aware of the importance of drug demand reduction programmes within an overall drug policy which addresses cultural, health and social problems.