News from EU4Monitoring Drugs, the EMCDDA’s technical cooperation project

This content was published in the second EU4MD update released on 22.10.2019. This update also presents a section on partnerships and related activities, upcoming events, and a research corner.

Professionalising drug prevention in EU4MD partner countries

A professional prevention workforce is important for the development, planning and implementation of effective prevention systems and activities. To this effect, the EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) project supports the dissemination of evidence-based drug prevention among prevention professionals in partner countries.

In July this year, the EU4MD supported the participation of drug prevention professionals from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine(*) and Ukraine to a three-day workshop on evidence-based prevention interventions and approaches based on the European Universal Prevention Curriculum (EUPC). The workshop was organised under the scope of the International Conference on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care, hosted by the International Society for Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) and the UNODC in Vienna, Austria.

As a follow-up of the workshop, representatives from Georgia and Lebanon were invited to attend the first EUPC Training of Trainers course in Lisbon on 24-26 September, which coincided with the launch of the new European Prevention Curriculum (EUPC) handbook by the EMCDDA. The course was organised by the EMCDDA in partnership with the EU-funded project ASAP and it brought together 29 participants from 11 countries. After following two three-day training courses of this kind and a final exam, successful participants will gain the status of European Master Trainers. The qualification will allow the trainers to cascade evidence-based prevention knowledge through providing courses in their own country and language.

As part of its commitment to supporting the professionalisation of drug prevention, the EU4MD is also planning to translate the EUPC training materials into key languages of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) area and to roll out regional Training of Trainers courses in the eastern and southern ENP areas in 2020 and 2021.

 * This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.

Interview with Rasha Abi Hana, Service Development Coordinator at the National Mental Health Programme in the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon

Your name and role in your institute

My name is Rasha Abi Hana. I am the Service Development Coordinator at the National Mental Health Programme in the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon. My responsibilities are primarily: to plan, coordinate and evaluate capacity-building interventions; to set up and monitor SOPs for Mental Health and Substance use services in the community centres; to ensure high-quality mental health and substance use services in line with clearly defined national and international standards; to integrate substance use brief interventions; and to develop a comprehensive referral system.

Your past involvement in prevention responses/activities in your country

In line with the national strategy – the Inter-Ministerial Substance Use Response Strategy for Lebanon 2016-2021 – our interventions at the National Mental Health Programme are focusing on ensuring the identification, and implementation of evidence-based strategies and interventions for the prevention of substance use as well as promoting these interventions at the national level to help raise awareness at individual and community levels through information and education about substance use in different contexts.

Since its establishment, the programme has been conducting capacity-building activities for staff in social development centres and collaborating with NGOs in organising preventive activities. At this stage some programmes are being piloted such as the adapted Unplugged, Line Up Live Up, and, as the Ministry of Public Health, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for the implementation of a school health programme supporting students in acquiring life skills.

Is prevention of drug use a priority in your country? If not, should it be?

Prevention is a key sub-domain in the Health and Social Welfare Response Domain, among other important domains, this is clearly highlighted in the ‘Inter-Ministerial Substance Use Response Strategy for Lebanon 2016-2021’.

Prevention programmes are being piloted and studied to assess their feasibility and effectiveness in Lebanon as a first step to scaling up programmes. However, and in the absence of allocated funding for prevention activities, the interventions are still limited and implemented on an ad-hoc basis.

What did you ‘take home’ from the ASAP & EMCDDA Training of Trainers workshop?

I was thoroughly inspired by the ASAP & EMCDDA Training of Trainers workshop and I appreciated that we learned a lot. The key learning points are mainly better understanding of the prevention science, selection, evaluation and implementation of prevention interventions, and understanding the essential components of an evidence-based intervention in different contexts (family, school, workplace, environment and the media). Finally, this was definitely insightful to promoting evidence-based prevention interventions at the national level.

What follow-up action would you like to see in your country in terms of work related to prevention and how can the EU4MD make a difference in this area?

Until now, as mentioned above, prevention interventions are done on an ad-hoc basis according to the availability of funding; however many strategic objectives related to prevention are clearly highlighted in the Inter-Ministerial strategy for Lebanon.

The EU4MD can support training and capacity-building projects as well as disseminate the culture of evidence-based prevention interventions to different actors in Lebanon in addition to initiating, aligning and strengthening other prevention programmes in the area.

Interview with Mariam Razmadze, Coordinator at Institute of Addictology, Ilia State University; Psychologist, Global Initiative on Psychiatry – Tbilisi, Georgia

Your name and role in your institute

Mariam Razmadze, Coordinator at Institute of Addictology, Ilia State University; Psychologist, Global Initiative on Psychiatry – Tbilisi

Your past involvement in prevention responses/activities in your country

Piloting and adaptation of the Unplugged programme; working as a psychologist/addictologist at a youth psychosocial centre, which has been established as a selective prevention service; working with adolescents with behavioural and mental health problems; and coordination of an Addiction Research Development Project, funded by TEMPUS & USAID.

Is prevention of drug use a priority in your country? If not, should it be?

Prevention activities are mostly limited to media campaigns and sporadic activities, such as sport events. Evidence-based interventions are now hopefully becoming more prioritised as the national centre of disease control with the Global Initiative on Psychiatry – Tbilisi has started to train school psychologists in delivering Unplugged to school teachers. It definitely should be a priority as it is one of the most effective and important public health responses to drug demand reduction issues.

What did you ‘take home’ from the ASAP & EMCDDA Training of Trainers workshop?

The workshop was very insightful in terms of delivery strategies and ways to ensure that the main messages will reach decision- and policymakers.

What follow-up action would you like to see in your country in terms of work related to prevention and how can the EU4MD make a difference in this area?

The involvement of the EU in developmental projects is very important to us, as it helps us to introduce effective evidence-based solutions to various problems. I would definitely like to see more resources directed towards evidence-based effective programmes and the prioritisation of prevention interventions.

Spotlight on partner countries: Ukraine and Jordan

Ukraine

Serhii Shum PhD, Director of the State Agency ‘The Center for Mental Health and Monitoring of Drugs and Alcohol of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine’, the EMCDDA’s counterpart in the country, speaks about the drug situation in Ukraine. He highlights main challenges and threats, reflects on successful national efforts and gives his views on future cooperation with the EU4MD project.

What are the main drug-related challenges facing Ukraine?

One of the main obstacles to counteracting effectively the circulation of new psychoactive drugs (NPS) in Ukraine, which by their properties and structure are analogues of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances, is the lack of a legislative mechanism for the prompt detection and establishment of national control over the circulation of such drugs. There is currently no early detection system for NPS at the national level in Ukraine.

In the past, there was no comprehensive drug monitoring system at the national level, so the collection and reporting of data to meet international obligations was challenging.

Among other challenges is the expert examination of drugs, psychotropic substances, their analogues and precursors, due to a lack of laboratories in Ukraine, limited availability of proper equipment, the absence of a coordinating center that would facilitate the coordination of work and the exchange of information between the expert laboratories. Moreover, there is a need to expand standard samples for laboratories, and specialists of these institutions are in great need of systematic training.

Ukraine has endorsed a National Drug Policy Strategy, which will expire at the end of 2020, requiring the development of a new Strategy for the period up to 2025, including determination of priority focus areas regarding drugs.

What are the current health and security threats related to drugs?

Two of the most important drug-related threats for health and safety in Ukraine are the emergence of NPS that can harm human health and life, and the lack of an early detection system for NPS at the state level.

What has been done to address the challenges posed by drugs?

The Action Plan for 2019-2020 has been approved and focuses on (i) improving control over the circulation of narcotic medicines, psychotropic substances and precursors, (ii) preventing their diversion into the illicit market, while ensuring their availability for medical purposes, (iii) actions against organised crime, corruption and drug trafficking, and (iv) strengthening legal frameworks.

The Government has adopted an Act to monitor the drugs and alcohol situation in Ukraine. A monitoring system for drugs and alcohol will be introduced at the state level; the systematic and continuous collection of information on the circulation of psychoactive substances and their illegal distribution will enable the analysis of drug crime, the evaluation of the mortality rate related to the use of psychoactive substances, the prevention and treatment of psychoactive substance use, and the rehabilitation and re-socialisation of drug-dependent individuals in Ukraine.

Within the scope of the Ukrainian Working Group on Research on Psychoactive Substances, a draft governmental act was developed. It provides for the approval of the Procedure for carrying out activities related to the circulation of standard samples of drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors between state specialised institutions. This Procedure will allow for the transfer and exchange of both primary and secondary standard samples of controlled substances between all laboratories for proficiency testing, joint inter-laboratory exercises or other forensic purposes.

Where and how can the EU4MD project make a difference?

Ukraine would welcome the opportunity for cooperation with the EMCDDA under the scope of the EU4MD in the following matters:

  • Conducting training for experts on drug monitoring indicators in Ukraine;
  • Facilitating the exchange of experiences from other EU countries regarding the development of drug strategies;
  • Assisting in our efforts to better equip forensic laboratories (including the provision of standard samples) to enable expert examinations on drugs, psychotropic substances, their analogues and precursors;
  • Facilitating training interventions and the exchange of experiences (advanced training) for specialists of forensic institutions (laboratories).

In addition, Ukraine is very interested in joining the European Union Early Warning System on New Psychoactive Substances.

Jordan

Major Jamil Al Habaibeh, Head of International Affairs Section, Anti-Narcotics Department (AND), in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the EMCDDA’s counterpart in the country, speaks about the drug situation in Jordan. He highlights the main challenges and threats, reflects on successful national efforts and gives his views on future cooperation with the EU4MD project.

What are the main drug-related issues in Jordan and what has been done to address them?

Drug-wise, Jordan is considered a transit country. Cannabis originating from Lebanon and Afghanistan is trafficked to Jordan via Syria, while heroin and Captagon get to Jordan via Turkey and Syria.

Drug law enforcement is focused on controlling our extended land borders, especially the desert at the northern borders with Syria and the south east borders with Saudi Arabia. More than 95% of the total amount of seized drugs were transiting Jordan and destined elsewhere.

Jordan local authorities maintain continuous cooperation with competent authorities in our region and the world, which has resulted in drugs seizures in many countries, especially pertaining to controlled delivery cases.

Jordan is a party to the UN Drug Conventions. In 2008, Jordan established the National Anti-Narcotics Council which has representation from governmental and non-governmental organisations, and aims to address drug-related problems in Jordan. The Council has formulated a comprehensive national strategy in which each entity has been assigned to a specific role in addressing the drugs phenomenon.

The Anti-Narcotics Department (AND) of Public Security Directorate is in charge of the implementation of the drug strategy in the country, while precursor control is under the responsibility of the Drugs and Food Administration (DFA). A special team at the Central Bank is the competent authority responsible for money laundering cases. The AND closely cooperates and coordinates its actions with Customs and DFA to control the importing and exporting of precursors for legal use and to prevent any misuse; the Central Bank also provides assistance in the investigation of some drug cases.

Jordan has taken measures to increase public awareness of the dangers of drugs through active awareness plans involving a range of stakeholders including school and university students, NGOs, correction and rehabilitation centres, youth clubs, and the media.

We have two public drug treatment facilities; one affiliated to the Ministry of Health and the other to the Anti-Narcotics Department of Public Security Directorate. In the first half of 2019, a total of 373 persons were admitted to the AND treatment centre. Recently, the capacity of the public treatment system increased with the development of a new treatment facility with a higher capacity.

What are the recent drug-related challenges facing Jordan?

The drug situation is well controlled, but we are aware of challenges which we may face in the future. To increase our response potential, we invest in training our officers and bringing new detection devices into service that could help foster eventual responses, although the resources remain limited.

A challenge to highlight relates to the constantly changing drug trafficking routes as a result of ongoing instability in Syria. Initially, the sea route was primarily used for drugs smuggling. Now that the land border between Jordan and Syria is open again, there is a need for vigilance over a possible return to the land route for the trafficking of Captagon and heroin. Moreover, continued vigilance of what is happening on the border with Iraq is also important.

Appearance of synthetic cannabinoids has resulted in new patterns of drug use. Thus, in 2018 we seized more than 155 kg of synthetic cannabinoids. We also see that the Darknet is increasingly used by drug traffickers for smuggling and distributing the substance, and this is something new for us.

Where and how can the EU4MD project make a difference?

Jordan has a very close cooperation with the UNODC, the EU and the Pompidou Group of the European Council, mainly to enhance the capacity of our officers to address drug-related issues. Examples of this cooperation include the EUROMED Police project, and awareness raising among youth and on drug treatment for the police officers with the Pompidou Group. In addition, we have direct contacts with our counterparts, especially in the neighbouring countries, and with attaché officers at most of the embassies in Amman.

For the EU4Monitoring Drugs project, started this year, the AND is looking forward to implementing activities aimed at the capacity building of the AND to effectively respond to new challenges in countering drug trafficking, tackling distribution of drugs through the Darknet and in strengthening prevention and drug treatment in the country.

News by year

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