Italy Country Drug Report 2018

Harm reduction

In Italy, the need to contain the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among injecting heroin users in the early 1990s involved setting up outreach programmes and low-threshold centres, and the provision of clean injecting equipment and drug treatment. This was the beginning of the shift towards ‘contacting and taking into care’ those who were not receiving treatment from drug treatment services. The harm reduction approach was further consolidated in the state-regional accord of 1999 and in harm reduction guidelines, which were presented at the Genoa Conference by the Ministry of Health in November 2000. By decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of 12 January 2017, harm reduction services are listed among the assistance services to be provided by the national health system to people with dependencies.

Harm reduction interventions

The range of harm reduction services and initiatives in Italy continues to be heterogeneous and diversified. Some outreach programmes and projects exist at local levels and are operated by both public and private social and health organisations, together with specific projects funded through the National Drugs Fund; these usually include needle and syringe programmes, information dissemination and counselling.

Harm reduction programmes are more extensive in the northern and central Italian regions, and are usually located in the larger cities. Harm reduction interventions are delivered through mobile units, fixed sites (drop-in centres and reception units), outreach programmes, and needle- and syringe-dispensing machines. A recent study indicates that, as well as needle and syringe exchange programmes, naloxone is also available in a number of surveyed harm reduction units. New guidelines for screening and diagnosis of infectious diseases have been prepared to increase the practice of testing in addiction treatment centres.

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.