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Published: 15 November 2011

Drug policy developments

Rebalancing drug policy objectives towards promoting recovery has been a recent development in the United Kingdom, with successive drug policy documents focusing on treatment outcomes and the social reintegration of drug users (1), and on making the goal of recovery a key element of drug policy (2). Earlier policies were primarily aimed at increasing the number of people accessing drug treatment, notably opioid substitution treatment, whereas some of

the new ones have a stronger focus on service quality. How these new directions in policy will translate into changes in drug treatment and social reintegration services remains to be seen. And there is the question of whether

it points to deeper changes in drug policy in the future. A review of the evidence base around recovery found that several decisive factors for achieving a drug-free life and becoming an active member of the community lie outside the scope of drug policy, and are related to individual characteristics and broader social policies (Best et al., 2010). Changing these, especially if it requires additional financial resources, may be difficult for governments at a time when they are cutting public expenditure.

Portugal’s current drug policy is more than 10 years old, but it has gained increased attention in recent years, first from drug policy analysts and advocacy groups, but now also from governments in Europe and elsewhere. Central to the Portuguese policy is the decriminalisation of drug use and the role of ‘commissions for dissuasion of drug abuse’ (CDT), managed under the Ministry of Health (EMCDDA, 2011b). These bodies assess the situation of drug users

and have the power to provide support or impose sanctions. While no other country has yet adopted this model, a committee set up by the Norwegian government has recently suggested the development of similar interdisciplinary tribunals in that country.

(1) 2008 UK strategy.

(2) 2008 Scottish and 2010 UK strategies.

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, 28 October 2011