Extension To The Deadline of the EU Drugs Strategy Public Consultation

The deadline has now been extended until the 3rd February 2012. This is a great opportunity to make sure your opinion helps to shape the EU anti-drugs policy. The consultation is designed to help the European Commission identify what are the EU-level actions on which it should focus.

Europe Against Drugs would like to encourage affiliates and partner agencies to respond to this important consultation.

Who can respond?

Organisations wishing to respond need to register first so give yourself time! You can find out all the information on the consultation and register (if you are an organisation) here. Individuals can also respond to the consultation.

Can I see your template response?

EURAD affiliates can contact EURAD for a full briefing and copy of the agreed EURAD response.

What are the questions?

The three main questions are below with some pointers belowfrom EURAD to get you thinking. You may find the points below useful in crafting your own response. Even if you do not agree with all of our points, you may find some you would like to emphasize in your own response.

1.  What actions should the EU take to prevent the production of illicit drugs and their smuggling to and within the EU?

Europe Against Drugs (EURAD) supports the current European Commission perspective that tackling illicit drugs requires a long-term, integrated and multidisciplinary approach, which joins together public health, social and education policies, law enforcement and external action into one coherent policy (1). As one part of comprehensive drug policies, EURAD fully supports and encourages Member States to take action to prevent the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, as we see law enforcement as a vital component of prevention, but not a substitute for fully comprehensive drug policies.

In relation to the European Union, drug trafficking remains one of the largest cross-border law enforcement challenges (2) and an issue which cannot be tackled by Member States alone. There is also legal competency to act on this issue through the Lisbon Treaty, which defines drug trafficking as a serious crime with a cross border dimension (3).

In this regard, we would like to see the following actions reflected in the next EU Drugs Strategy and its' accompanying action plans:

  • The establishment of common minimum rules across Europe in regard to criminal offences and sanctions related to drug trafficking, with proportionate sanctions for those operating at different levels of the supply chain and with alternatives to detention being provided where appropriate

  • Development of the existing Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA or a more effective European Union legal instrument to enable increased judicial co-operation in drug trafficking cases across Europe

  • Continuous monitoring of known and newly emerging drug trafficking routes by the appropriate European level agency (for example, EUROPOL/EUROJUST/EUROSUR)

  • Review of the effectiveness and potential of European Border Surveillance System, due to be operational in 2013, in reducing illicit drug smuggling

  • The establishment of effective EU level tools to reduce, monitor and to take co-ordinated enforcement action on the trade of drug precursors

  • To further extend, as necessary, the number of bilateral agreements in place with the EU on the control of drug precursors

  • To review the success of bilateral agreements on drug precursors and examine practical ways for these agreements to be more productive

  • Stronger EU legislation on confiscation, recovery of criminal assets and mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders

  • The establishment of effective asset recovery offices throughout Europe, (if necessary) which engage with appropriate member state organisations undertaking a similar role

  • Recommendation that member states re-invest money acquired by drugs related asset recovery operations into effective drug demand reduction programmes

  • Evaluation of the current anti-money laundering directive, with a view to strengthening EU and Member State existing legislation as appropriate

  • Investment in evaluations to assess whether psychoactive substances contain illicit substances

  • Review or investigate the role of the internet in illicit drug smuggling and trafficking and associated activities such as money laundering

 

(1) European Commission (2012) "European Response To Drugs". Accessed here.

(2) Action 25 of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012 is linked to this recommendation.  

(3) The Lisbon Treaty. Article 83 (1). Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

 

2. What regulatory measures should the EU develop to contain the spread of new psychoactive substances?

EURAD thinks that preventing harm is always better than repairing - both in terms of human suffering, effectiveness and the cost involved. Prevention (at the beginning of the continuum of drug use) and long term follow up towards recovery and rehabilitation (at the other end of the continuum) both need a far greater emphasis in today's drug policy agenda. Like illicit drugs, we equally apply this approach to the recent rise of new psychoactive substances which have appeared on the market at an unprecedented rate in recent years, with 115 new substances being identified in the last 5 years.

Definitions

The European Commission defines a new psychoactive substance as "a new narcotic or psychotropic drug, in pure form or in preparation, that is not controlled by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions" (1) (Council Decision 2005/387/JHA).

However, it is important to note that Member States have also developed their own definitions as well. In Ireland, for example, a psychoactive substance is also defined by the impact it has on the person using it (2).

Justification

The duty to protect the public health leaves no room for complacency in regard to psychoactive substances. EURAD does not believe that we need documented deaths for each substance in order to take any type of regulatory action; indeed such action would come too late.

Recommendations

EURAD endorses a comprehensive approach to drug policy which starts from the continuum of production through to treatment. We would like this continuum approach to be reflected in the EU drugs strategy to show that the EU is tackling all aspects of psychoactive substances and not just concerned with the legal challenges that they pose (although this is a very important component). To this extent EURAD supports the inclusion of the following actions in the next EU Drugs Strategy:

  • Actions for Member States to integrate psychoactive substances into their respective drug demand reduction policies, so that drug prevention activities are also targeted at psychoactive substance users and that such users can access appropriate treatment services

  • Strengthen public awareness and education of the dangers of using substances for which no safety data exists

  • Recognition that psychoactive substances can cause drug dependence and that such substances need to be reflected and accounted for in Member States drug policies (so that users of such substances are not rejected from accessing high quality drug treatment services)

  • Introduction of an enhanced co-operation agreement between national laboratories in order to conduct more effective forensic analysis of new psychoactive substances

  • Encourage Member States to invest in emergency department capabilities to support identification of new psychoactive substances, the results of which could also aide treatment processes for users who experience adverse or serious consequences as well as helping public health departments and EMCDDA to identify patterns of geographical and demographical usage

  • Clear responsibility to appropriate EU agencies for proactively identifying new psychoactive substances (for example, through the Early Warning System)

  • Increased EU research capacity and competence on new psychoactive substances

  • Improved conditions for Joint Reports at EU level so that the European Commission, Council, EMCDDA and EUROPOL could all request a Joint Report on new substances which raise concern and assurances that such information will be passed to the general public and civil society organisations in a timely manner

  • Review of how the psychoactive substance market is interrelated with the illict drug market

  • Specific competency for the EU level to address online sales of psychoactive substances, which by its' online nature constitutes a global web-based distribution network, which makes it very difficult to tackle by Member States alone, with steps being taken at an EU level to stop source countries importing to EU countries where there is legislation in place (3)

  • Clear action for EU Member States who are the source of online sales of psychoactive substances, to ensure retailers are aware of different legal frameworks in EU member states and collaborative enforcement action as appropriate

  • Encouragement for all Member States to have a risk assessment system for psychoactive substances as part of their legal drug procedure (4)

  • Encouragement for Member States to take a generic approach to psychoactive substances to avoid the emergence of similar versions of the same substance (for example, the Irish Criminal Justice Psychoactive Substances Act 2010)

  • Encourage Member States to seek consistency in approach and to reflect on issues where inconsistency has led to effects on other Member States (5)

  • Introduction of a faster EU decision making process on new psychoactive drugs (17 Member States believe the current decision making process at an EU level is too slow) (6)

  • The introduction of fast-track / emergency control measures (18 Member States are in favour of this action) (6)

  • Independent reviews of the success of EU level actions, including on unintended consequences, which are currently more often than not, based on assumptions than reliable evaluation

(1) European Commission (2005) Council Decision on the information exchange, risk assessment and control of new psychoactive substances.

(2) In the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances Act) 2010, Ireland defines a psychoactive substance as a substance, product, preparation, plant, fungus or natural organism which has, when consumed by a person, the capacity to produce stimulation or depression of the central nervous system of the person, resulting in hallucinations or a significant disturbance in, or significant change to, motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood or cause a state of dependence, including physical or psychological addiction.

(3) The UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have recently called for further steps to be "taken at EU level to encourage source countries to halt the manufacture of such substances" in: ACMD (2011) Consideration of the Novel Psychoactive Substances (Legal Highs). Accessed at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/agencies-public-bodies/acmd1/acmdnps2011?view=Binary

(4) According to the EMCDDA (2011) six Member States do not have a risk assessment system. EMCDDA (2011).  Drugs in Focus: Responding to new psychoactive substances. Accessed at: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drugs-in-focus/responding-to-new-psychoactive-substances

(5) This is just one example. Interventions by Polish authorities on 1,300 head shops reportedly led to traders opening similar shops in neighbouring Czech Republic. Such a situation would be avoided at least within Europe if there was more consistency of approach from Member States. Reported in: European Commission (2011). Report From The Commission: On the assessment of the functioning of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA on the information exchange, risk assessment and control of new psychoactive substances.

(6) European Commission (2011). Commission Staff Working Paper: on the assessment of the functioning of of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA on the information exchange, risk assessment and control of new psychoactive substances.

3. How can the EU help improve the availability, accessibility and quality of drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction services in the Member States?

EURAD believes that early intervention, prevention and follow up to rehabilitation, recovery and social re-integration need far greater emphasis in the next EU Drugs Strategy.  

We would like to recommend the following actions be included into the next EU Drugs Strategy:

  • Introduction of a review mechanism to ensure that Member States include drugs prevention consistently in their respective Public Health Strategies, to the same extent as other public health issues like tobacco, alcohol and obesity (legal action should not be perceived as substitution for drug prevention)

  • The continuation of targeted EU Drugs Prevention Funding in order to help develop evidence base and practice of drugs prevention across Member States

  • The continuation of funding to NGO's and Civil Society Organisations to under early intervention and prevention work in accordance with the EU Drugs Strategy and in accordance with the UN Conventions on Drugs
  • Review, make recommendations and introduce more consistent drug prevalence tools across Europe

  • Encourage Member States to focus drugs prevention work more effectively according to their own national situation, as outlined in the yearly EMCDDA Country Reports (1)

  • Continue to fund national focal points in each Member State which provide a valuable insight into drug use, whilst ensuring that the focal points contribute effectively to the EU Drugs Strategy

  • Fund programmes to develop early identification systems for people at risk of drug use

  • Re-emphasise the EU commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires all appropriate measures to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances (2)

  • Encourage Member States to capture drug related hospital admissions data so that effective preventative approaches can be properly evaluated and so that new patterns of drug use can be effectively monitored

  • Invest and fund drug education and information campaigns which provide information to the public on the risks of illicit drug use, which should be coupled with a national support mechanism such as information on how to access effective support services

  • Encourage Member States to provide support mechanisms for families, friends and carers affected by drug use, who are often excluded from service provision

  • Fund NGO's and NGO networks at a Member State and EU level who wish to provide support mechanism for families, friends and carers affected by drug use
  • Member States should clearly attempt to address the social determinants of health and determinants which affect drug use in their respective countries

  • Address polydrug use more explicitly, (including the interplay between tobacco, alcohol and drugs), through EU Action Plans and ensure this is reflected in the working structures at EU and Member State Level (for example, looking for areas of co-operation where tobacco, alcohol and drug prevention could be targeted together)

  • To disseminate at a Member State level, the EU Wide Minimum Quality Standards for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Harm Reduction and attempt to incorporate these into Member States Drug Policies

  • To ensure funding is available to thoroughly evaluate the drug treatment and harm reduction services which are commissioned by Member States to ensure that they are effective in helping drug users achieve recovery and social re-integration, which should be a central goal of treatment services

  • To ensure high quality treatment services are available throughout Member States and available to all to a consistently high standard

  • To ensure a balance of drug treatment services including a stronger focus on the provision of rehabilitation for adults and teenagers, which is severly lacking in some EU member states
  • To encourage Member States to fund programmes which re-integrate former and current drug users into society, including employment, housing and education

  • The EU strategy should highlight the need for swift access to a range of high quality services for people with drug problems across Europe, including residential and community rehabilitation, social reintegration, housing support and evidence based treatment services

(1) For example, the UK report shows that the characteristics linked to likelihood in consuming drugs over the last year were: age, gender, frequency of alcohol consumption, marital status, long-term illness, frequency of night club visits and housing tenure. All country reports can be accessed at the EMCDDA website.

(2) Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Accessed at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm#art33