Netherlands Country Drug Report 2018

Harm reduction

Harm reduction is a central feature in the Dutch drug policy and is aimed at reducing drug-induced deaths and drug-related infectious diseases, as well as at preventing drug-related emergencies. Methadone and heroin programmes, needle and syringe programmes, supervised drug consumption rooms, sheltered living projects and treatment of drug-related infectious diseases are widely available for people with problem drug use patterns.

Harm reduction interventions

In the Netherlands, harm reduction activities are implemented through outreach work, low-threshold facilities, and centres for ‘social addiction care’, the main goal of which is to establish and maintain contact with difficult-to-reach drug users.

Most outreach work is carried out by low-threshold services in outpatient care facilities. Drug consumption rooms offer the possibility of supervised consumption. Outreach activities also feature in programmes for reducing drug-related public nuisance, which are a collaborative venture between treatment and care facilities, police and civil groups.

Needle and syringe programmes were established in the Netherlands over 30 years ago and are available in all major cities. These programmes are mainly implemented by street drug workers and at treatment centres.

There is no national monitoring of the number of syringes and needles distributed. Available local data indicate a significant decline in syringe provision since the 1990s, which can be attributed to a reduction in heroin use and injecting in general, and an increase in the inhalant use of other substances, such as crack cocaine.

The first drug consumption room was established in 1994; currently there are 31 drug consumption rooms across 25 cities, servicing people who inject drugs and those who smoke or inhale.

In 2015, the new oral interferon-free direct-acting antiretroviral treatments (DAAs) for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection became reimbursable. DAA treatment is offered to all HCV patients, irrespective of the level of fibrosis. A comprehensive hepatitis plan was launched in 2016, and the Health Council advised that drug users should actively be offered hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV testing. Addiction care institutions were identified as the main players responsible for case finding in this risk group. Several projects implement chain of care pathways to lead HCV-positive drug users into treatment in hospital centres. In addition, retrieval projects in several parts of the country aim to find patients previously diagnosed with chronic HCV, including drug users, to offer them treatment with DAAs.

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

Netherlands main page