This is the 11th annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, available this year in 23 European languages. Looking back across the reports issued by the agency over the years, it is hard not to be struck by the growth in the level of detail in the information now available – reflecting a more complex situation both in the use of illicit drugs in Europe and in the way Europe responds to the drug problem.
The information available to support our analysis has grown considerably. This year’s report is based on data from the 25 EU Member States and Norway and, where available, from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Not only has the number of countries providing information increased, but the amount of comparable information available from each has continued to grow. This information provides us with a far more detailed picture of the European drug situation and its dynamics than ever before. It is the EMCDDA’s task to explore this complexity, drawing together common experiences where they exist as well as commenting on differences. In investing in data collection and collaborating in the work of the Monitoring Centre, our Member States have come to understand that their neighbours’ problems today may become their own problems tomorrow. This awareness is evidenced in the new European Union drug strategy and its accompanying action plans, which are underpinned by consensus on the importance of collecting and sharing information; the need to identify and disseminate good practice; and the value of cooperation and coordinated action in response to the common threat to the health, well-being and security of our citizens posed by drugs.
A reflection on the information available also reminds us of the need for continued vigilance and of the dangers of complacency. Warning notes are sounded in this report in respect of drug-related HIV infections and drug-related deaths. Nonetheless, in Europe as a whole, a tremendous effort has been made to address these sorts of problems, and tangible progress has been made. This has meant that European policy makers have had to make difficult choices, and they have largely done so after carefully studying the available evidence. Such a policy perspective should be applauded. The global debate on the drug problem is not short on rhetoric regarding the need for a balanced and evidence-based approach. In Europe, perhaps more than anywhere else, this rhetoric has become reality. Despite differences between our Member States in the details of the drug problems they each face and in their priorities for action, there is common agreement on the importance of sharing information and cooperating in order to reduce the supply of drugs as well as on the need to balance supply reduction activities with demand reduction measures, and there is a growing consensus regarding the need to be guided by the evidence in making hard choices about what programmes and actions are in the best interests of our citizens. This European approach is manifested not only in the new European drug strategy, but also in the national drug strategies that our Member States have adopted, in the stronger and more unified voice that emerges from Europe on this issue, and in the work of the EMCDDA as we strive to play our part in facilitating informed policy making by providing an unbiased and scientifically rigorous analysis of the information available on the drug phenomenon in Europe.
Drug use is a complex issue, and it is not one that lends itself to simple conclusions. However, one conclusion does clearly emerge from the European experience – we have learned that working together not only works but is also indispensable if we are to develop effective responses to the challenges presented to us by the use of illicit drugs.
Chairman, EMCDDA Management Board