Sadly today drugs affect all our communities. Responding to problems caused by the production, trafficking and use of drugs is a challenge and a responsibility we all share, whether we are working at international or local level. Below Wolfgang Götz, EMCDDA Director looks at some of the challenges at local level to address Europe's drug problems.
Today the EMCDDA supplies the scientific evidence base for many of the laws, strategies and programmes being drawn up to respond to the drug problem in the EU Member States, whether at European, national, regional or local level.
Local authorities are a logical partner in dealing with drug-related problems. They are best placed to fine-tune and adapt drug policies to the needs and resources of their community. They are also at the frontline in the fight against drug-related crime the fight against drug-related crime and in dealing with the social
repercussions of drug use.
Local authorities are at the frontline in the fight against drug-related crime
One of the main tests for local decision-makers is finding the right balance between protecting the wider community against drug-related crime, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, helping drug users through social and healthcare interventions to reduce their risk-taking and guide them into treatment.
Treating drug users is very often the domain of local authorities, as services are frequently managed and financed at local level. I believe that one of the main challenges for local authorities in the coming years in tackling drugs will be precisely in this area. One reason is that, although treatment centres are generally more numerous and better equipped today than they were a decade ago, they are still very much geared towards problems relating to heroin use (e.g. there are now over half a million people in Europe in drug substitution treatment). But, as more and more individuals seek treatment for problems linked to synthetic drugs, cannabis, cocaine or polydrug use, services will need to adapt to more, and very varied, problems.
Among the new developments we have witnessed in the last five years in the prevention of drug use in Europe is 'selective prevention', aimed at high-risk groups, families and communities who are often by-passed by prevention work in more traditional settings. Our 2006 Annual report noted a greater involvement here of municipalities, as selective prevention calls for cooperation between youth, education, health, social and law enforcement services which is typically local.
The drug problem is not one that will easily disappear and so our job is to persevere in monitoring its characteristics. It is likely that new forms of drug use will be adopted at first by a few individuals, among small groups or in particular regions, localities, cities or social settings. Our aim is quickly to pick up on new substances and emerging trends, detecting them before they have had time to become major problems.
A longer version of this article was published on the EMCDDA website on 26 June.
Drugnet Europe is the EMCDDA's newsletter launched in September 1996. The newsletter provides regular and succint information on the Centre's projects and activities to a broad readership.