Chapter 1
Policies and laws

National drug strategies

During the reporting period, national drug strategies and action plans were adopted by five countries (Table 1). Latvia adopted a national drug strategy for the first time, for the period 2005–08, while new national drug strategies and plans were adopted in the Czech Republic, Spain, Luxembourg and Romania.

Table 1: Countries adopting new drug strategies in 2005



Time span

Czech Republic

National drug strategy


Action plan



Action plan



National drug strategy



National strategy and drugs action plan



National drug strategy


In addition, Finland adopted a drug strategy for the prison administration (2005–06), and in the United Kingdom Public Service Agreements (PSAs) set out new objectives and targets in the field of drug policy aimed at reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs to individuals, their families and the community.

During the reporting period, national drug strategies were under preparation in Italy, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Norway (Table 2).

Table 2: Countries with drug strategies in preparation in 2005



Time span


Action plan



National strategy



National strategic plan and action plan



Action plan



Action plan


Some countries, having first implemented national drug strategies and action plans some time ago (1998 onwards), are now reformulating their strategies or plans, placing greater emphasis on setting clearer and more feasible objectives. For example, Luxembourg reports that its new action plan 2005–09 is simple, clearly structured and output oriented, setting objectives for actions, identifying responsibilities and specifying budgets, anticipated outcomes and deadlines for outcome and evaluation. In Belgium, an expert group was appointed by the public health authorities of the French Community and Walloon region to establish a ‘concerted plan of prevention, help and care in drug addiction’. The group recommended that ‘priorities and objectives should be defined more clearly by the governments’, that ‘a clear definition of the basic principles of a common drug policy should take place’ and that ‘a chronology of the chosen strategies should be identified’. The 2005–06 action plan in the Czech Republic follows a similar direction, specifying concrete goals and the activities needed to meet them, and setting out the responsibilities of individual ministers and the terms and indicators of fulfilment for each field.

Evaluation of national drug strategies

Many European countries automatically renew their national drug strategies, setting in motion a cyclical process in which the results of the previous strategy, or its evaluation, provide input for the future strategy (EMCDDA, 2004a).

During 2005, such a process was reported by Ireland, Luxembourg, Hungary and Romania. Evaluation of the implementation of the Hungarian Strategy to Combat the Drug Problem was undertaken externally by the Dutch Trimbos Institute, the first time that a country’s drug strategy has been assessed by foreign experts. The evaluation focused on the mid-term results of the drug strategy and led to a set of recommendations regarding future drug strategies and how the coordination structure in the field of drug policy could be strengthened. There are similarities with the 2004 evaluation of the 1999 Portuguese national drug strategy and the 2001–04 action plan, conducted externally by the Portuguese National Institute for Public Administration and internally by the Institute for Drugs and Addiction (IDT). Hungary and Portugal are the first two countries in Europe to have requested external assessment of their national drug strategies.

In 2005, the mid-term review of the Irish drug strategy 2001–08, based on a public consultation process and analysis of key national and EU data, recommended ‘refocusing’ priorities in order to address emerging trends in treatment, polydrug use, cocaine use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and ‘re-energising’ the roll-out and implementation of various key actions during the remaining period of the strategy. And in Romania, the national drug strategy 2003–04 was evaluated with the participation of all state institutions involved in the field of drugs with the findings forming the basis for the new national drug strategy 2005–12. In Luxembourg, 87 % of the measures set out in the 2000–04 national drugs action plan have been implemented within the specified deadlines. It is reported that the measures not introduced (e.g. a heroin distribution programme) have been delayed mainly for political reasons. Actions not yet implemented have been included in the new action plan.

Furthermore, reports over the last year suggest that national drug strategies are beginning to have visible effects. While it is not yet possible to say definitively that the overall aims of reducing demand and supply have been achieved, there is no doubt that national drug strategies have reached specific and important targets.

Evaluation of the Portuguese drug strategy adopted in 1999 attributes to it an increase in the availability of drug treatment, a reduction in drug-related deaths and HIV prevalence and an increase in police reports for drugs trafficking. On the other hand, it also found that there has been a fall in the age at which people first experiment with drugs and an increase in drug-related deaths linked to substances other than opioids. In Spain, the evaluation of national strategy (2003), while recognising that the objective of reducing drug use has not been realised, reveals that good results have been achieved in the areas of assistance and harm reduction, and satisfactory results have been achieved in other areas, such as research and education, international cooperation and supply reduction. In addition, the Ministry of Health and Consumers’ Affairs has approved an action plan 2005–08 to mobilise resources and implement initiatives with the aim of progressing and revitalising the national drug strategy. And, in Greece, a consequence of the national action plan 2002–06 has been an increase in the type and coverage of available treatment programmes.

In Sweden, the national action plan on drugs 2002–05 resulted in drugs moving up the political agenda at the local, regional and national level. Most municipalities in Sweden now have some form of action plan on drugs, and higher priority is now given to coordination and cooperation between stakeholders in the field of drugs, resulting in improvements in these areas. There have also been developments in both the types and accessibility of treatment available for drug addicts. In the United Kingdom, the Audit Commission, while acknowledging progress in drug treatment, suggested that there remains room for improvement in facilities for reintegration and rehabilitation of drug users, such as housing, social care and other support services. In the future, the government’s success in achieving the aims of the drug strategy will be measured against targets set out in the PSAs, and by a drug harm index (DHI), which will assess the harms generated by problem use of any illegal drug.

Finally, evaluation is identified as a key element in the newly adopted national drug strategies. In Latvia, the Drug Control and Drug Addiction Restriction Coordination Council will evaluate the progress of implementation of the programme every year, and in Luxembourg a final external output evaluation will be undertaken in 2009.

Drug-related public expenditure

Although expenditure is frequently measured over differing time periods, and there is no common definition of drug-related public expenditure, available estimates suggest that drug spending has increased in several countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria and Poland.

Countries reporting drugs expenditure for the year 2004 included the Czech Republic (11.0 million euros), Spain (302 to 325 million euros), Cyprus (2.8 million euros), Poland (51 million euros) and Norway (46 million euros). Two countries reported more recent budgeted expenditure for tackling drugs: Luxembourg (6 million euros in 2005) and the United Kingdom (2 billion euros in 2004/05).

In Slovakia, it is estimated that total public expenditure in the field of drugs in 2004 was 14.5 million euros, of which law enforcement accounted for approximately 8.4 million euros and social and health care for 6.1 million euros.

In Sweden, it is estimated that drug policy expenditure during 2002 was around 0.9 billion euros (lower estimate 0.5 billion euros, higher estimate 1.2 billion euros). Comparing the 2002 estimates with figures for 1991 shows that public expenditure on drug policy has increased substantially.

In Ireland, the mid-term review of the national drug strategy, published in June 2005, recognises that ‘a measure of the expenditure is vital to gauge the cost effectiveness of the different elements of the strategy’, and work will commence shortly to estimate police expenditure. In Portugal, the Institute for Drug and Drug Addiction (IDT) is funding research to develop and test a model to estimate the costs of drug abuse, and in Belgium follow-up of a 2004 study on public expenditure was instituted at the end of 2005. Although sparse, these interesting data show that research on drug expenditure constitutes an increasingly important part of the policy agenda of some Member States.

EU legal and policy developments

Action plans

At EU level, two action plans adopted in 2005 directly or indirectly create a new frame of reference for the development of EU policy in the field of drugs for the next few years. First, having examined the Commission’s proposal of February 2005, and taking fully into account the final evaluation of the EU drugs strategy and EU action plan (2000–04), the Council endorsed the EU drugs action plan 2005–08 in June 2005. The new action plan follows the structure and the objectives of the EU drugs strategy 2005–12 and lists around 100 specific actions to be implemented by the EU and its Member States by the end of 2008.

Evaluation forms a substantial part of the new EU drugs action plan. It is conceived as a continuous, incremental and participative process. It is continuous because the European Commission, with the support of EMCDDA and Europol, will present annual progress reviews. The evaluation exercise will also be incremental, each annual progress review placing the results of the last year within the context of the preceding year. Finally, the process will be participative, involving an evaluation Steering Group whose task will be to define the methodology, output and provisional calendar. As in the evaluation of the EU action plan (2000–04), the Steering Group will be made up of representatives of relevant Commission services, the EMCDDA and Europol as well as representatives of the Member States. Consultative hearings for civil society representatives will also be organised. At the end of the 2005–08 drugs action plan, and for the first time at European level, an impact assessment will be organised with a view to proposing a new action plan for the period 2009–12, which is intended to take this assessment as a starting point. A final evaluation of the strategy and of the action plans will then be carried out by the Commission in 2012.

This EU drugs action plan is also a component of the action plan to implement the Hague Programme, which sets objectives to be implemented in the area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union over the period 2005–10. This action plan was presented by the Commission in May 2005 and approved by the Council in June 2005.

The EU action plan 2005–08 reflects the EU’s balanced approach to the drugs phenomenon, i.e. a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach that considers the issue from every angle: coordination; demand reduction; supply reduction; international cooperation; information, research and evaluation.

Drug supply reduction

Two important activities in the EU in the field of drug supply reduction were characterised by the coming into force, on 18 August 2005, of the two EC regulations on precursors adopted in 2004. Controls on chemical precursors are an important aspect of drug supply reduction, as these substances are indispensable in the production of drugs. Action in this area in the EU takes two forms: first, the regulation of trade in certain substances between the EU and third countries and, second, regulation within the internal market.

Adopted in 1990 to comply with the provision of article 12 of the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, on precursors control, the first regulation laid down measures to be taken to discourage the diversion of certain substances to the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (1). It was replaced in December 2004 by a new regulation with an extended application framework aimed at countering also the manufacture of synthetic drugs (2).

A Council Directive (3) issued 2 years later, in 1992, completed the system and provided for corresponding arrangements within the internal market (the manufacture and the placing on the market of certain substances used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances), including the setting up of control measures. It has been replaced by a new regulation adopted on 11 February 2004 (4). As a result of EU enlargement, Community legislators have decided to replace the 1992 directive with a regulation as ‘each modification of that Directive and its Annexes would trigger national implementation measures in 25 Member States’. The new instrument establishes harmonised measures for intra-EU control and monitoring of certain substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, with a view to preventing the diversion of such substances. In particular, it obliges Member States to adopt the necessary measures to enable their competent authorities to perform their control and monitoring duties. In addition, a regulation laying down rules for implementing these two regulations came into force on 18 August 2005 (5).

These actions in the area of precursors control complete another part of the important activities of the EU in the field of supply reduction. Utilising the new opportunities provided since the Maastricht Treaty, the EU has developed a legal framework to combat drug trafficking and to improve law enforcement cooperation. Several joint actions in this field have been adopted since 1995–96, and more recently a framework decision to harmonise minimum sanctions against drug trafficking and a decision on new psychoactive substances have been adopted (see ‘Action on new drugs’).

In addition to these legal instruments, a programme for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters has been adopted and implemented. Agis is a framework programme to help the police, other relevant agencies and the judiciary from the EU Member States and candidate countries cooperate in criminal matters in the fight against crime. Since 2003, it has helped to fund many projects. International organised drug production and trafficking and drug precursors diversion are mentioned within the areas of activities and specific topics of the 2006 Agis work programme and call for proposals (which closed in January 2006).

Money laundering and confiscation of assets

There have also been some modifications of legal instruments in the field of money laundering and confiscation. Directive 91/308 on prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering (6), adopted in 1991 on the legal basis related to the internal market and modified in 2001, attempted to harmonise legislation in this area among Member States. One of the reasons for the adoption of this directive was to avoid the possibility that the absence of European Community action against money laundering could lead Member States to adopt protectionist measures that might delay the establishment and completion of the internal market. In June 2004, the Commission proposed a new directive with the same purpose but including in addition terrorist financing. Limiting the scope of the directive to the proceeds of drug trafficking was felt to be too restrictive, and the Commission proposed widening the range of offences covered. This new directive, adopted in October 2005, gives a precise definition of serious offences and covers the laundering of the proceeds of such offences, including financing of terrorist activities.

A framework decision on ‘the confiscation of crime-related proceeds, instrumentalities and property’ was also adopted by the Council on 24 February 2005. It aims to ensure that all Member States have in place effective rules governing the confiscation of instrumentalities and the proceeds of criminal offences punishable by deprivation of liberty for more than 1 year. EU legislation in this area existed previously but was considered insufficient. This new framework decision aims to achieve effective cross-border cooperation with regard to confiscation. The mechanism of confiscation is extended to other crime-related property when the offence was committed within the framework of a criminal organisation and when the offence is covered by one of several other EU framework decisions. Among these is Framework Decision 2004/757/JAI, which lays down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of illicit drug trafficking. The Member States shall take the necessary measures to comply with this framework decision by 15 March 2007.

Public health

Demand reduction is an integral part of the European balanced approach to drugs. In the context of the implementation of the Programme of Community Action in the field of public health 2003–08, in 2005 the European Commission selected some drug-related projects for funding with the objective of ‘promoting health and preventing disease through addressing health determinants across all policies and activities’. The first project to be funded in the drugs area, called EU-Dap 2, is the evaluation of the effectiveness of the EU-Dap school preventive programme, which aims to reduce tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the long term. The second project, IATPAD, aims to improve access to treatment for people with alcohol- and drug-related problems. Other horizontal projects include some aimed at drug prevention and should also be co-funded, for example ‘PEER-Drive clean!’, which is an innovative project targeting young persons aged between 18 and 24 years and aimed at preventing driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These projects have been selected for funding and should receive co-financing on condition that the negotiation procedures with the European Commission are successful and that the grant agreement is signed (7).

EMCDDA regulation

Finally, on 31 August 2005, the Commission adopted a new proposal for the recasting of the EMCDDA founding regulation. The new regulation is an important instrument to facilitate the work of the EMCDDA because of the new tasks it defines. In particular, it allows the EMCDDA to take account of new drug use patterns and emerging trends in polydrug use, including the combined use of licit and illicit psychoactive substances; to develop tools and instruments to help Member States and the EU to monitor and evaluate their drug policies and strategies; and to cooperate with non-EU countries such as the candidates for EU accession or the countries of the Western Balkans. It also contains several changes to the Scientific Committee and the Management Board. Based on Article 152 TEC, this text must now be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament according to the co-decision procedure.

New national laws

A few countries made major changes to their drug laws in the reporting period concerning both possession and trafficking offences and penalties.

In Romania, a new law and new penal code introduced distinctions between felonies and misdemeanours (with misdemeanours now punishable mainly by community work and day fines), between users and addicts and between low-risk and high-risk drugs. Exemption from penalty and postponing the execution of the penalty can now be applied to drug law offences. Treatment of addicts can now take place through an integrated assistance programme, overseen by a case manager. Prison sentences have been increased for offences related to providing a place for drug use, tolerating drug use in such a place, or encouraging drug use. Sentences were also increased for unlawfully administering high-risk drugs to a person and for supplying toxic chemical inhalants to a minor.

In Bulgaria, the new Narcotic Substances and Precursors Control Act was approved in June 2004. This Act establishes the function of state bodies in the control of the regulatory procedures for drugs, in implementing measures against drug abuse and trafficking, and in research. A supplementary amendment removed the exemption of addicts from criminal responsibility if they were found in possession of one single dose (discussed further below).

In Slovakia, the new criminal code redefines the offences of possession of drugs for personal use and for trafficking. In contrast to the previous offence of possession for own use (defined as no more than one dose), Section 171 creates two offences of possession for own use, depending on the number of doses (see below for details). Two new penalties can also be imposed for these offences: monitored home imprisonment or community service. Possession of more than 10 doses must be charged under Section 172, which, depending on the aggravating circumstances, provides for prison sentences ranging from 4 years to life. In addition, the age of criminal liability has also been lowered from 15 to 14 years.

In Lithuania, handling drugs with intent to sell them can no longer be punished by up to 90 days in police cells; this offence now attracts a significantly more severe minimum punishment, namely a prison sentence, although the minimum sentence has been reduced from 5 to 2 years. The maximum sentence for theft of a large amount of drugs or theft by an organised group has been extended to 15 years.

In Italy, recent changes in legislation (February 2006) have reclassified drugs into two main groups rather than six (all substances with no therapeutic use are grouped together, removing any notion of hard and soft drugs); defined the threshold between personal use and trafficking; revised the sanctions to include house arrest and community service; and increased access to the alternatives to prison. In addition, all drug users now have the right to choose freely the type and location of treatment they receive and the institution that certifies their drug-addicted status, services that are no longer provided exclusively by the public sector.

In the United Kingdom, the Drugs Act 2005 made a number of substantial amendments to the national legislation including clarifying the classification of fungi containing psilocin or psilocybin as a class A drug; creating the presumption of intent to supply when a specified quantity of controlled drugs is found; allowing police to test drug offenders on arrest, instead of on charge, and requiring those testing positive to undergo assessment for drug use; and requiring courts to take into account aggravating factors (such as supplying drugs near a school) when sentencing. Courts may also remand in police custody for up to 8 days (previously 4 days) those who swallow drugs packages, and a court or jury may now draw inferences if a person refuses to allow an intimate search or scan without good reason.

In general, there is a tendency across Europe to reduce or remove custodial penalties for personal use offences and, at the same time, to increase penalties for offences related to drug supply (8).


Several countries legislated on threshold quantities of drugs during the reporting period.

In Belgium, following the Constitutional Court’s annulment of Article 16 of the 2003 law, a new joint directive of the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutors-General dealt with cannabis-related infringements. It states that the possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use (no more than 3 grams or one plant) by an adult should lead to a simple police registration only, if there are no aggravating circumstances.

In Slovakia, the role of quantity is central to the new penal code on drugs offences. Section 171 creates two offences of possession for own use: possession of no more than three doses may be punished by up to 3 years’ imprisonment, while a prison sentence of up to 5 years may be imposed for possession of ‘a larger amount’ (no more than 10 doses). Possession of quantities greater than this must be charged under Section 172. This allows a prison sentence of 4–10 years to be imposed if there are no aggravating factors, and for sentences of 10–15 years for possession of a larger amount (with a street value of over 10 times the ‘baseline’ amount of 8 000 Skk – approximately 200 euros), 15–20 years for possession of drugs on a considerable scale (defined as over 100 times the baseline) and 20–25 years or life imprisonment for possession on a large scale (defined as over 500 times the baseline).

From 2002 to 2005, the Max Planck Institute in Germany carried out an evaluation of Section 31a of the German Narcotic Drugs Act, which permits the offence of possession of ‘insignificant quantities’ of drugs to be exempted from prosecution in certain circumstances. The evaluation found that, in practice, the implementation of Act §31a varies considerably in the 16 Länder of Germany, in part because of different interpretations of ‘insignificant’ (Schäfer and Paoli, 2006). In March 2005, the Länd Berlin passed a revision of its ‘Guideline on Cannabis’, according to which possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis is not prosecuted if certain criteria are fulfilled. This amount can be increased to 15 grams in individual cases.

The Minister of Health of Lithuania amended recommendations on what shall be regarded as small, large and very large amounts of narcotic and psychotropic substances, redefining these quantities. The United Kingdom Drugs Act 2005 now creates the presumption of intent to supply when a specified quantity of controlled drugs is found, with those quantities set out in regulations defined in spring 2006.

In Bulgaria, the Amendment and Supplement Act of the penal code (new SG 26/04) abolishes Section 354а (3), which exempted addicts from criminal responsibility if they were found in possession of a single dose. Difficulties in defining the quantity of a single dose and evidence that the exception has been misused in court to benefit drug dealers were among the reasons given for this measure.

In Italy, the changes implemented in February 2006 imposed new quantity limits to define the threshold between personal use and trafficking, based on the amount of active principle of the drug, following the removal of such limits in 1993. The limits are indicated in a specific Ministry of Health Decree of April 2006.

As already shown by European Legal Databases on Drugs (ELDD) research (9), the role of quantity in drug laws is varied; in some countries (e.g. Slovakia), the quantities that delimit certain offences are strictly defined, while in others (e.g. the United Kingdom) quantities are guidelines that give rise to a rebuttable presumption of intention. Quantities may also distinguish between offences (e.g. possession or supply), or determine the penalty for the same offence. Though many countries refer to a quantity in their laws, quantity can be defined in different ways (weight, value) or even not at all. The latest, apparently contrasting, actions of Italy and Bulgaria continue to show only that there is no clear European consensus on this issue.

Sentencing statistics

Monitoring of sentences given to drug offenders has been discussed or implemented in several countries, and in some cases action has already been taken on the results.

In Ireland, approval has been given for the establishment of a central crime statistics unit to monitor statistics on arrests, prosecutions and the nature of sentences passed, in accordance with the national drug strategy.

The German Narcotic Drugs Act allows the prosecutor to discontinue proceedings for possession of drugs without court approval under certain circumstances. Despite recommendations and guidelines on these, regulations differ significantly between Länder. The above-mentioned study on these differences, carried out for the Ministry of Health, looked at the sentencing of over 1 800 cases in six different Länder (Schäfer and Paoli, 2006).

In some provinces in Austria, there have been attempts to standardise implementation of Sections 12 and 35(4) of the Narcotics Act, which define simplified procedures to withdraw a report to the police in the case of the purchase or possession of small quantities of cannabis. Other sentencing statistics showed that the waiving of reports as statutory alternatives to punishment increased in 2004, though police reports and convictions increased further, while the number of suspended proceedings dropped slightly.

In Romania, court sentencing statistics were examined in order to monitor the success of social reintegration of drug users who commit offences other than drug use. In the majority of cases, the penalty was suspension of the sanction under surveillance. From 2004, it was noted that the courts less often imposed compulsory treatment, effectively decreasing the involvement of the probation services and thus their contribution to the social rehabilitation of drug users.

Statistics on sentencing, or avoidance of sentencing, give a far more accurate picture of the implementation of a country’s drug policy than does the text of the laws (see EMCDDA, 2002a). Although not all Member States collect comprehensive sentencing statistics, in contrast to arrest statistics, countries are starting to report a greater interest in monitoring this implementation, which is in line with the trend to evaluate policy instruments (10). The issue of collecting and analysing sentencing statistics was addressed by an EMCDDA expert meeting in 2006.

Drug-related crime

Action 25.1 of the EU drugs action plan 2005–08 foresees the adoption by the Council, by 2007, of a common definition of ‘drug-related crime’, on the basis of a Commission proposal based on existing studies to be brought forward by the EMCDDA.

Although there is as yet no EU definition of drug-related crime, it is usually considered to mean crimes committed under the influence of drugs, crimes committed to finance drug use, crimes committed in the context of the functioning of illicit drug markets and offences in contravention of drug legislation. Routine data are available in the EU only on the last type of crime – drug law offences.

Data on the first three types of crime are rare or patchy in the EU. Some come from ad-hoc local studies, which are difficult to extrapolate from, while others refer only to a specific type of drug-related crime.

Box 1: Reports on the drugs‑crime connection

In the Czech Republic in 2005, regional police headquarters were surveyed for the second consecutive year about drug-related crime. It was estimated that in 2004 about 62 % of drug production/distribution offences, 25 % of fraud offences, 21 % of crimes involving misappropriation of funds/property and 20 % of ordinary thefts were committed by drug users in order to finance their own consumption (Czech national report).

A survey carried out in 2004 among 15- to 16-year-olds in Finland showed that about 7 % of those who had used cannabis in the last year had financed their use illegally, more than half by selling drugs and the rest mainly by stealing (Kivivuori et al., 2005, cited in the Finnish national report).

In Ireland, two studies carried out by the Garda Research Unit in 1996 and 2000/01 among a sample of drug users known to the police estimated that drug users were responsible for 66 % of detected indictable crimes in 1996 and 28 % in 2000/01 (Keogh, 1997; Furey and Browne, 2003, cited in the Irish national report). The 2000/01 survey found that opioid users were responsible for 23 % of detected larceny offences and 37 % of detected burglaries.

Data on ‘reports’ (11) of drug law offences are available in all the European countries analysed in this report. They reflect differences in national legislations, but also the different ways in which the laws are applied and enforced, and differences in the priorities and resources allocated by criminal justice agencies to specific offences. In addition, there are variations between national information systems on drug law offences, especially in relation to reporting and recording practices – i.e. what is recorded, when and how. Because these differences make direct comparisons between EU countries rather difficult (12), it is more appropriate to compare trends rather than absolute numbers.

Over 5-year period 1999–2004, the number of ‘reports’ of drug law offences increased overall in most EU countries (in fact in all reporting countries except Italy and Portugal, with particularly marked increases – twofold or more – in Estonia, Lithuania (13), Hungary (14) and Poland). In 2004, this increasing trend was confirmed in most reporting countries (15), although a few countries reported a fall over the previous year – the Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia (since 2001), Slovakia, Finland and Bulgaria (16).

In most EU Member States the majority of reported drug law offences (17) are related to drug use or possession for use (18), ranging in 2004 from 61 % of all drug law offences in Poland to 90 % in Austria. In the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Turkey, most reported drug law offences relate to dealing or trafficking, with the proportion varying from 48 % of all drug offences in Luxembourg to 93 % in the Czech Republic.

Over the same 5-year period, the number of offences for use/possession for use increased overall in all reporting countries, except Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Turkey, which reported a declining trend (19). The share of all drug law offences accounted for by these offences also increased in most reporting countries over the period, although the rate of increase was generally low, except in Cyprus, Poland and Finland, where more marked upward trends were reported. However, in Luxembourg, Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey, the proportion of drug offences related to use/possession for use fell overall (20).

In most of the Member States, cannabis is the illicit drug most often involved (21) in reported drug law offences (22). In the countries where this is the case, cannabis-related offences in 2004 accounted for 34–87 % of all drug law offences. In the Czech Republic and Lithuania, amphetamines-related offences predominated, accounting, respectively, for 50 % and 31 % of all drug law offences; while in Luxembourg cocaine is the most reported substance (in 43 % of drug law offences).

In 1999–2004, the number of ‘reports’ of drug law offences involving cannabis increased overall in the majority of reporting countries, while decreases were evident in Italy and Slovenia (23). Over the same period, the proportion of drug offences involving cannabis increased in Germany, Spain, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Bulgaria, while it remained stable overall in Ireland and the Netherlands, and decreased in Belgium, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Sweden (24). Although in all reporting countries (except in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and for a few years in Belgium) cannabis is more predominant in offences for use/possession than in other drug law offences, the proportion of use-related offences involving cannabis has decreased since 1999 in several countries – namely Italy, Cyprus (2002–04), Austria, Slovenia and Turkey (2002–04) – and has fallen over the last year (2003–04) in most reporting countries, possibly indicating a reduced targeting of cannabis users by law enforcement agencies in these countries (25).

Over the same 5-year period, the number of ‘reports’ and/or the proportion of drug law offences involving heroin decreased in the majority of reporting countries, except Belgium, Austria, Slovenia and Sweden, which reported upward trends in the number of ‘reports’ involving heroin (26) and/or the proportion of drug offences that involved heroin (27).

The opposite trend can be observed for cocaine-related offences: in terms of both number of ‘reports’ (28) and the proportion of all drug offences (29), cocaine-related offences have increased since 1999 in most reporting countries. Bulgaria is the only country to report a downward trend in cocaine offences (both numbers and proportions of drug offences).

Box 2: European drug policies: extended beyond illicit drugs?, in EMCDDA 2006 annual report: selected issues

In Europe, the scope of drug policies is beginning to stretch beyond illicit drugs and to encompass other addictive substances or even types of behaviour. This is found in the drug policies of some Member States and in EU drugs strategies. Increasingly, research is addressing the issue of addiction or addictive behaviours irrespective of the substances concerned. The selected issue on the increasing attention being given in national illicit drugs strategies or policy documents to licit substances or to addiction per se aims at presenting a first insight into this emerging phenomenon in the European Union.

Although drugs strategies do not always refer to licit drugs or addictions, the selected issue finds that prevention programmes and, in some countries, treatment measures apply to both licit and illicit drugs, targeting as a priority children and young people. A slow integration, strategically or institutionally, of licit drugs into policy and measures against illicit drugs appears to be more and more common.

This selected issue is available in print and on the Internet in English only (

(1) n) Council Regulation (EEC) No. 3677/90 of 13 December 1990, OJ L 357, 20.12.1990, p. 1.

(2) Council Regulation (EC) No. 111/2005 of 22 December 2004, OJ L 22, 26.1.2005, p. 1.

(3) Council Directive (EEC) No. 109/92 of 14 December 1992, OJ L 370, 19.12.1992, p. 76.

(4) Regulation (EC) No. 273/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004, OJ L 47, 18.2.2004, p. 1.

(5) Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1277/2005 of 27 July 2005, OJ L 202, 3.8.2005, p. 7.

(6) Council Directive 91/308/EEC of 10 June 1991 on prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering. OJ L 166, 28.06.1991, pp. 77–83.

(7) For more information see

(8)  See 2005 annual report ( See also ‘Illicit drug use in the EU: legislative approaches’, an EMCDDA thematic paper (

(9) See ‘The role of the quantity in the prosecution of drug offences’, an ELDD legal report, and Table 1 in ‘Illicit drug use in the EU: legislative approaches’, an EMCDDA thematic paper (both available at

(10) See ‘National policies: evaluation of laws’ (

(11)  The term ‘reports’ for drug law offences is given in quotation marks because it describes different concepts in different countries. For an exact definition for each country, refer to the methodological notes on drug law offences in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(12) For a more complete discussion of methodological issues, refer to the methodological notes on drug law offences in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(13) The increase in Lithuania is due to the implementation in May 2003 of the new Criminal Code.

(14) The increase in Hungary is mainly due to an amendment to the Penal Code and the criminal procedure.

(15) Data on ‘reports’ for drug law offences were available for 1999–2004 in all countries (although sometimes not for every year) except Cyprus, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Norway; and for 2004 in all countries except Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway.

(16) See Table DLO-1 and Figure DLO-1 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(17) Breakdowns by type of offence were available in all countries (although sometimes not for every year between 1999 and 2004) except Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

(18) See Table DLO-2 in the 2006 Statistical bulletin.

(19) See Table DLO-4 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(20) See Table DLO-5 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(21) Breakdowns of drug law offences by substance were available in all countries (although sometimes not for every year between 1999 and 2004) except Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Finland, Romania and Norway.

(22) See Table DLO-3 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(23) See Figure DLO-2 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(24) See Table DLO-6 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(25) See Figure DLO-3 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(26) See Figure DLO-4 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(27)  See Table DLO-7 in the 2006 statistical bulletin; note that in Sweden the proportion of heroin-related offences decreased over the period 1999–2003.

(28) See Figure DLO-5 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.

(29) See Table DLO-8 in the 2006 statistical bulletin.