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Drug treatment overview for Denmark

Map of Denmark

1. National context

The main goals of Danish drug treatment policy are to achieve a reduction in drug use or to attain full abstinence through enhanced use of psychosocial interventions and systematic follow-up of treatment, and to tackle problems other than those of drug use. Following local government reform in 2007 municipalities became responsible for organising both the social and medical treatment of drug users. While the 98 municipalities are responsible for drug treatment, the five regions are responsible for psychiatric, primary and public healthcare. The Social Services Administration is responsible for referring a person for medical and social treatment for drug use, and the preparation of his/her treatment plan is a mandatory action according to the Social Service Act. Access to drug treatment is guaranteed within 14 days of the first contact or request from drug users over the age of 18, and in some cases aged under 18. People who are entitled to treatment may choose between public and private treatment programmes within a framework of a prescribed treatment plan.

Clients are usually treated as outpatients, and this may be supplemented by day or inpatient treatment if a change in environment and/or a more structured intervention is needed. The most prevalent approaches to treatment in Denmark are cognitive, socio-educational and solution-focused. Treatment for opioid users is predominantly medically assisted and is accompanied by psychosocial counselling. In recent years new initiatives such as a cannabis and cocaine project in Copenhagen city have been developed to tackle a specific demand for the treatment of cannabis and cocaine users, and several initiatives to address socially marginalised drug users, drug users with concurrent mental disorders, and underage youth are also supported.

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) is provided free of charge, primarily at specialised outpatient treatment units provided by local Social Services Administrations in municipalities. Methadone, which has been available in Denmark since 1970, is the predominant substance; buprenorphine is offered alongside methadone and the National Board of Health’s guidance (currently the Danish Health and Medicines Authority) issued in 2008 recommends it as the first-line medication for opioid-dependent drug users that have not previously been treated. Figures from 2011, the latest available estimates, show that 7 600 clients were on OST, of whom 6 200 were on methadone and 1 400 on buprenorphine. As part of the treatment provided to the most seriously affected heroin abusers, in January 2010 the government initiated a scheme of treatment using medically prescribed heroin, and 198 drug users were in injectable heroin treatment by April 2013. In spring 2013 the treatment scheme was evaluated, and as a follow-up a treatment option with tableted heroin started in October 2013.

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2. Treatment registries and monitoring systems

Clients in public and private drug-free residential treatment are monitored by the Danish Registration and Information System (DanRIS). This system is based at the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research at Aarhus University, which is also in charge of evaluation studies at national level. Clients in drug-free outpatient treatment and those in substitution treatment are monitored in the database of the National Board of Health, to where the 14 counties and six municipalities deliver data. The use of the substitution drugs methadone and buprenorphine is registered for each case. Both databases fulfil the purpose of a monitoring system as well as a national register. 

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3. Treatment demand

Table 1: Number of clients entering treatment in Denmark by year
Clients in treatment 2010 2011 2012 2013
Number of all clients entering treatment 5337 5686 5686 N.Av.
Number of all clients entering treatment with known primary drug 4760 3779 3779  
% of which for opioid use 32.2 17.5 18  
% of which for cocaine use 5.0 5.1 5  
% of which for cannabis use 49.1 63.4 63  
% of which for stimulants use (other than cocaine) 8.5 9.8 9  
Number of new clients entering treatment 1882 1847 1847 N.Av.
Number of new clients entering treatment with known primary drug 1744 1444 1444  
% of which for opioid use 10.8 7.1 7  
% of which for cocaine use 6.5 5.8 6  
% of which for cannabis use 67.0 72.6 73  
% of which for stimulants use (other than cocaine) 12.0 10.8 10  
Notes:
The variation across time, in particular with regard to the absolute numbers of clients in treatment, should be interpreted with caution as coverage data may have changed over time. For further information on coverage details please refer to the relevant EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.
For an explanation of terms used, see the definitions of terms.
Sources:

Reitox national reports 2014 and TDI tables.
EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2015.

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4. Treatment provision

Table 2: Opioid substitution treatment provision in Denmark
Opioid substitution treatment 2010 2011 2012 2013
Number of clients in opioid substitution treatment 7515 7600 N.Av. N.Av.
of which with methadone 6089 6200 N.Av. N.Av.
of which with buprenorphine 1281 1400 N.Av. N.Av.
Notes:
For a detailed European overview please see the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2015 (HSR section).
‘N. Av.’ stands for ‘No information available’.
For an explanation of terms used, see the definitions of terms.
Sources:
Structured Questionnaire on 'Treatment programmes'(SQ27P1), submitted in 2014.
Table 3: Year of official introduction of opioid substitution treatment substances in Denmark
Applied substances in opioid substitution treatment Officially introduced in
Methadone (MMT) 1970
Buprenorphine (HDBT) 1999
Heroin assisted treatment 2008
Slow-release morphine N.App.
Buprenorphine/naloxone combination N. Av.
Notes:
For a detailed European overview please see the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2015 (HSR section).
‘N. App.’ stands for ‘Not applicable’.
For an explanation of terms used, see the definitions of terms.
Sources:
Reitox national reports.
Table 4: Legal framework of opioid substitution treatment in Denmark
Legal framework of opioid substitution treatment Methadone Buprenorphine
Do office-based medical doctors have the right to initiate the prescription of substitution treatment? Yes Yes
Do specialised medical doctors have the right to initiate the prescription of substitution treatment? Yes Yes
Notes:
For a detailed European overview please see the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2015 (HSR section)..
For an explanation of terms used, see the definitions of terms.
'Specialised medical doctors' refers to specifically trained or accredited office-based medical doctors.
Sources:
Structured Questionnaire on 'Treatment programmes'(SQ27P1), submitted in 2014.

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5. References and links

Related EMCDDA resources

 

External links

Please note that the EMCDDA is not responsible for the content of external sites.

  • Netstof (DK) - Website for the municipalities regarding drug and drug treatment

Treatment inventories

Treatment research centres

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About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 22 May 2015