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Brussels, 18 September 2008

4-year Action Plan and European Alliance on Drugs strengthen Europe's fight against drugs use

Today the Commission adopted "An EU Drugs Action Plan for 2009-2012" which proposes wide-ranging measures to strengthen European cooperation to curb the adverse consequences of drug use and cut drug-related crime. These measures also include a European Alliance on Drugs to reduce the harm caused by drugs in our society. Through the European Alliance on Drugs, the Commission also calls on government bodies, public services and voluntary organisations to work in partnership.

"With up to 2 million problem drug users in the EU, it's high time to raise awareness of vulnerable groups, especially youth, on the risks of drug taking" stated Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security. The European Alliance on Drugs will mobilise Europe's citizens to play an active part in the fight against drugs, i.e. by informing and disseminating widely the successful initiatives achieved so far."

Latest available data show that whereas the use of heroin, cannabis and synthetic drugs has stabilised or is declining, cocaine use is rising in a number of Member States. The total number of people in the EU who use drugs – or have at some time taken them – is estimated at 70 million for cannabis, at least 12 million for cocaine, 9.5 million for ecstasy and 11 million for amphetamines, while at least half a million people are known to be receiving substitution treatment for heroin. There are up to 2 million problem drug users in the EU and around 7,500 people die of drug overdoses each year.

The Action Plan 2009-2012 builds on the existing approach of the EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012 which set out a European model for drug policy based on a balanced approach to reduce both supply and demand for drugs. The five main priorities of the new Action Plan include reducing the demand for drugs and raising public awareness, mobilising European citizens, reducing the supply of drugs, improving international cooperation and facilitating a better understanding of the drug phenomenon.

Actions proposed include measures to improve the quality, availability and coverage of treatment and harm reduction programmes for drug users and the establishment of intelligence-led police and customs operations to counter large-scale organised crime groups both in the EU and on the drug trafficking routes from Afghanistan and Latin America.

The EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012 will be presented to the Council and is expected to be adopted before the end of the year.


What has European action on illicit drugs achieved so far?

The Action Plan 2009-2012 is based on an evaluation of the Action Plan 2005-2008 carried out by the Commission with the support of the Member States, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Europol and European NGOs.

Achievements of the past years include a decrease in the number of drug-related deaths and in the spread of HIV through drug injecting. Overall Member States have implemented a broad range of responses to the drug problem, including prevention, treatment, harm reduction and rehabilitation and taken measures to reduce crimes such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

The evaluation confirms that, despite differences in approach, Member States are increasingly working closer together and that national drug policies are converging. At the international level, the EU has gained influence by operating as one body in UN drug fora and EU drug policy increasingly provides a model for countries worldwide.

The dynamic nature of the drugs policy requires policy measures to adapt to new trends, for example increases in the use of cocaine poses challenges for drug prevention and treatment and the continuous diversion of trafficking routes and the increasing opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, coca cultivation in the Andean Region and synthetic drugs production in the EU requires Member States and bodies such as Europol to develop new responses and cooperation mechanisms that are both flexible and effective.

For further information on the Communication on "An EU Action Plan on Drugs 2009-2012" and the annexed report "Report of the Final Evaluation of the EU Drugs Action Plan (2005-2008)", see related memo m08_571.en and website:
Global approach to drugs developed at European Union level:
Vicepresident Barrot's website:

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