Greece Country Drug Report 2018

Harm reduction

Since the 2011 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) outbreak among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Athens, harm reduction service provision in Greece has been scaled up. Low-threshold facilities and outreach programmes focus on the prevention of infectious diseases and of overdose deaths, as well as on the management of health problems among drug users. All drug users attending a drug treatment programme have the right to free medication if they are HIV or hepatitis C virus positive or have other serious health problems (Law No 4139/2013). PWID are also an important target group in the action plan, adopted in 2017, for responding to the hepatitis C epidemic in Greece by creating awareness, improving services and better monitoring.

Harm reduction interventions

In Greece, harm reduction interventions include the provision of clean needles and syringes, condoms, printed health education and information materials, and training in safe use and first aid for drug users. The services offered by low-threshold programmes include testing for infectious diseases in low-threshold facilities in Athens; vaccination against the hepatitis A and B viruses is available free of charge.

In 2016, about 336 000 sets of sterile injecting equipment were provided at six fixed locations in Athens and Thessaloniki, while seven sites were regularly serviced by teams of outreach workers and by mobile units. In 2016, a new needle and syringe programme opened in Athens; however, harm reduction service coverage in the rest of the country remains low. Following reductions in the numbers of syringes distributed at needle and syringe exchange/distribution sites in 2014 and 2015, numbers rose again in 2016, but have not yet reached the same level as in 2013, when more than 400 000 syringes were given out.

In 2016, owing to a vaccination shortage, the number of individuals immunised against hepatitis C shrank to a quarter of those immunised in 2015. Under a new initiative, assessment for fibrosis of the liver is offered to vulnerable groups, and around 1 000 PWID were screened in 2016.

Availablity of selected harm reduction responses in Europe
Country Needle and syringe programmes Take-home naloxone programmes Drug consumption rooms Heroin-assisted treatment
Austria Yes No No No
Belgium Yes No No No
Bulgaria Yes No No No
Croatia Yes No No No
Cyprus Yes No No No
Czech Republic Yes No No No
Denmark Yes Yes Yes Yes
Estonia Yes Yes No No
Finland Yes No No No
France Yes Yes Yes No
Germany Yes Yes Yes Yes
Greece Yes No No No
Hungary Yes No No No
Ireland Yes Yes No No
Italy Yes Yes No No
Latvia Yes No No No
Lithuania Yes Yes No No
Luxembourg Yes No Yes Yes
Malta Yes No No No
Netherlands Yes No Yes Yes
Norway Yes Yes Yes No
Poland Yes No No No
Portugal Yes No No No
Romania Yes No No No
Slovakia Yes No No No
Slovenia Yes No No No
Spain Yes Yes Yes No
Sweden Yes No No No
Turkey No No No No
United Kingdom Yes Yes No Yes

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.