EMCDDA celebrates 20 years of monitoring

This year, the EMCDDA commemorates 20 years of monitoring the drugs problem in Europe. Over the last two decades, much has changed in the extent and nature of the phenomenon. In 1995, when the agency embarked on its mission (1), the EU was in the midst of a heroin epidemic, with drug policy largely driven by HIV transmission and AIDS-related and overdose deaths. In 2015, the policy drivers have diversified and the complexity of the drugs problem has increased, with many of the substances monitored today virtually unknown when the agency was first established.

As we reflect on the achievements of our first 20 years, we also reflect on our deeper and broader understanding of Europe’s drug situation and responses to it. Today, the agency can talk with confidence on drug problems evolving across the Union and can inform policy discussions and effective responses at national, regional and local level.

Wolfgang Götz, EMCDDA Director

Over the years, the EMCDDA has supported the development of Europe-wide surveillance systems, to carry out regular and sustained monitoring of developments in the drugs field, as well as early-warning mechanisms to ensure rapid responses to new substances. It is an imposing feat that the fledgling monitoring instruments established 20 years ago have now matured into a comprehensive European system recognised worldwide. These successes have been dependent on close collaboration with our European, national and international partners, in particular the EU institutions and our Reitox network.

At the heart of the EMCDDA’s work have been efforts to improve the comparability of drug information across Europe and to devise the standards, methods and tools required to achieve this. These include the agency’s five key indicators, allowing EU countries to describe in a ‘common language’ the extent and effects of drug use and its consequences. To deepen insight and increase the timeliness of information, the agency has broadened its repertoire of monitoring methods in recent years by employing internet monitoring, wastewater analysis and trendspotter methodology to assess new trends and patterns of use.

In the first half of this year, the agency released its 20th annual overview of the drugs problem in its European Drug Report 2015: Trends and Developments. Later this month, the 20-year theme will again be taken up at a technical conference where EMCDDA expert groups will explore the dynamics, nature and scale of drug use in Europe and reflect on future priorities (2).

Over the past two decades, European drug policy has gradually become more evidence based. A central challenge for the EMCDDA today is to continue to deliver high-quality analyses on established topics while, at the same time, extending its work in less developed but strategically important areas, in a limited-resource environment. As drug-related threats develop, our monitoring systems must evolve to keep pace with these changes and produce robust information for decision-making.

Wolfgang Götz, EMCDDA Director

This year, the EMCDDA commemorates 20 years of monitoring the drugs problem in Europe. Over the last two decades, much has changed in the extent and nature of the phenomenon. In 1995, when the agency embarked on its mission (1), the EU was in the midst of a heroin epidemic, with drug policy largely driven by HIV transmission and AIDS-related and overdose deaths. In 2015, the policy drivers have diversified and the complexity of the drugs problem has increased, with many of the substances monitored today virtually unknown when the agency was first established.

As we reflect on the achievements of our first 20 years, we also reflect on our deeper and broader understanding of Europe’s drug situation and responses to it. Today, the agency can talk with confidence on drug problems evolving across the Union and can inform policy discussions and effective responses at national, regional and local level.


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