Denmark Country Drug Report 2019

Harm reduction

Harm reduction is embedded in all relevant areas of Danish drug policy. The Ministry of Health has overall responsibility for harm reduction initiatives at the national level, in surveillance, guidance and knowledge sharing. Municipalities play a crucial role in the organisation and funding of harm reduction activities, including medical and social treatment to people who use drugs.

Harm reduction interventions

Denmark has a comprehensive harm reduction response, which includes the provision of needle and syringe distribution schemes, take-home naloxone programmes, drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment. In addition, services aimed at the prevention and treatment of drug-related infectious diseases are provided, including counselling, screening and vaccination against hepatitis A and B viruses. New treatment guidelines for chronic hepatitis C virus infection recommend treatment for all infected persons, on the basis of an individual assessment, no longer limiting it to advanced disease. Recently, programmes to facilitate access to general health services for marginalised drug users have also been implemented.

Needle and syringe programmes have been operating in Denmark since 1986. Syringes are available via syringe sales in pharmacies and dispensed for free by drugs services, through treatment institutions, in drop-in centres and through machines. Some municipalities also dispense needles and syringes at shelters and hostels. The provision of sterile water and other injecting equipment is common.

Since 2010, several take-home naloxone programmes to prevent opioid-induced deaths have been implemented in Denmark and are currently covering six municipalities with high levels of drug use. Since their introduction, these programmes have trained more than 3 400 people in overdose response and given out more than 3 500 naloxone kits. The state-funded programme will be evaluated in 2019.

Five supervised drug consumption facilities operate in four municipalities. Over the period 2012-17, drug consumption rooms provided services to more than 11 700 drug users and supervised more than 1.3 million drug use episodes, without any fatal outcomes. In 2017 alone, 8 316 individuals used these facilities and were supervised during 431 102 consumption episodes.

Heroin-assisted treatment has been available for hard-to-treat opioid users in five locations across Denmark since 2010.

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 Yes No
Bulgaria Yes No No No
Croatia Yes No No No
Cyprus Yes No No No
Czechia 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

Denmark main page

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.