Seventh European drugs summer school kicks off in Lisbon with record number of students

The seventh European drugs summer school (EDSS) — ‘Illicit drugs in Europe: demand, supply and public policies’ — opens today in Lisbon on the eve of International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. The two-week course (25 June–6 July), is a joint initiative of the EMCDDA and the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) and is supported by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This year, the EDSS has reached its maximum capacity with a record 53 participants from some 25 countries from the EU, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Through a multidisciplinary and interactive approach to the drugs problem, EMCDDA scientific experts, leading academics, guest speakers and policymakers, will prepare participants to meet the complex policy challenges in this field, both in Europe and beyond. 

Keynote speakers this year include: Robert West, editor-in-chief of the journal Addiction; Mariann Skar, Secretary-General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance; Annemie Coone, Lecturer at the Hogeschool Gent and the European Prevention Curriculum; Sabrina Molinaro of the Italian National Research Council and João Goulão, the Portuguese national drugs coordinator. Welcoming the students to the summer school and introducing the work and role of the agency will be EMCDDA Director, Alexis Goosdeel.

A focus on prevention

The focus of the 2018 summer school will be on drug prevention approaches. The EMCDDA Strategy 2025 underlines the role of the agency as a catalyst for supporting practice by improving the quality and delivery of responses to reduce the health and social consequences associated with drug use. This requires it to keep abreast of new prevention, treatment and harm-reduction approaches.

As the 2018 European Drug Report reveals: ‘Interest in the implementation of evidence-based prevention programmes in Europe has been increasing in recent years, supported by the establishment of registries, training initiatives and quality standards…Professional training is vital for the successful introduction of prevention approaches’. 

Speaking today in Lisbon, EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel said: ‘I am delighted to open our seventh European drugs summer school and to welcome a record number of participants and speakers for two weeks of lively debate around the central theme of drug prevention. This theme is particularly relevant at a time when there is growing awareness that a properly trained prevention workforce is a crucial factor for translating prevention evidence into practice. It is essential that professionals working with young people are appropriately trained’.

Goosdeel adds: ‘Today the United Nations promotes its Listen FIRST campaign to support evidence-based prevention interventions as an investment in the wellbeing of children, young people, their families and communities. Through careful listening, parents, teachers, policymakers and prevention workers can play a vital role in reducing the development of drug use and risky behaviours’. 

In 2017, the EMCDDA launched Xchange, a European online registry of evidence-based prevention programmes, providing information on the effectiveness and the implementability of programmes in European countries. This enables decision-makers to assess the ease with which prevention programmes can be implemented in different social, cultural and organisational contexts. 

In October this year, the EMCDDA will partner with the European Society for Prevention Research for a conference focusing on ‘Prevention technologies — improving the use of evidence in prevention practice’. The event will look at the challenges in the field of drug prevention today and address how new technologies might offer fresh opportunities for delivering evidence-based interventions and programmes and provide a platform for better engagement across different sectors. 

The EMCDDA marks International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking with an event on 25 June at its premises for the Lisbon diplomatic community and its partners from the Portuguese authorities.

EDSS programme

Week 1 of the summer school will feature lectures on: drug policies (concepts, issues and analysis); the EU drug strategy; drug laws and public expenditure and the global burden of drug-related problems. This session will also focus on the EMCDDA epidemiological indicators and how they inform drug policy. Participation from practitioners from hospitals and prison services will enrich the debate.

Week 2 will focus on drug markets in Europe and will provide an insight into prevention approaches in demand-reduction interventions. A dedicated session will explore harm-reduction interventions with a specific focus on current drug consumption room experiences in Europe. It will close with an analysis of the link between evidence and decision-making and an open debate.

Study visits to outreach facilities and to the Portuguese commissions for dissuasion will be organised over the two weeks. During the course, students will also participate in interactive workshops to discuss their own projects and views. A concluding open debate will be held by the Portuguese national drug coordinator, João Goulão.

The target audiences for the EDSS are: university students, researchers, professionals and administrators interested in working on drug issues. Profiles of former alumni and their testimonials can be found on the official summer school website and their statements viewed in a promotional video.

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