Netherlands Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use and responses in prison

More than one fifth of around 26 000 inmates entering the regular prison system in 2017 were imprisoned for a drug-related crime. However, drug users are predominantly imprisoned for other types of offences than drug dealing, such as property crimes. A recent study shows that less than 20 % of prisoners have a serious drug dependency.

In general, the prison system seeks to discourage the use of drugs by creating drug-free settings and limiting the availability and use of drugs in prisons. Continuity of care and equivalent access to health services are basic principles of the treatment of prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice and Security oversees health services in prisons and funds drug treatment in prisons. Drug treatment in prisons includes behavioural intervention and mental care services. Every prisoner is screened for health and social issues, including dependency problems. Prisoners can be referred to treatment services outside prison, as an alternative to imprisonment. Repeat offenders who exhibit drug use problems on prison entry may be placed in an Institution for Prolific Offenders, which also offers several treatment interventions inside and outside the prison system. The guidelines on ‘medical treatment of detained opiate addicts’ stipulate that inmates who were receiving methadone maintenance treatment prior to incarceration can continue their treatment in prison. Special treatment for those dependent on benzodiazepines or gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is available. Naloxone is available in every prison to reverse opioid-related overdoses.

After release from prison, treatment and care services continue to be implemented by municipalities. Addiction probation often plays a supervising and helping role in this process. ‘Safety houses’ are networks of local organisations working together to reduce crime. To better combine and integrate penal and rehabilitative interventions for offenders, criminal justice organisations cooperate with municipalities, the social sector and care organisations.

Since 2015, prison staff have been trained to improve their knowledge about substances and dependencies. Recently, efforts have been developed to improve the cooperation between penitentiary institutions and regular addiction care; in every penitentiary institution a contact person for drug dependency is appointed. The use of care outside prison is promoted.


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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.

Additional note for the Netherlands: Data on number and quantity of seizures do not include all relevant law enforcement units and should be considered partial, minimum figures. Data for amphetamines, heroin and MDMA include seizures by Dutch Customs and the Royal Military Police, but do not include seizures by national or regional police forces. Cocaine seizures represent the majority of large seizures, comprising data from Dutch Customs (including Rotterdam and Vlissingen harbours), the Royal Military Police and the National Police Force, but regional police force data are not included. Cannabis data are limited to police seizures of plants, cuttings and tops seized during dismantlement of cultivation sites. Data on precursors (scheduled and non-scheduled substances) are based exclusively on reports of suspicious transactions of such substances to the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Unit.