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Published: 15 November 2011

Drug user involvement

The concept of service user involvement in health policy gained momentum when a new agenda for public health and healthcare provision was set by the Ottawa Declaration of the World Health Organisation in 1986 (WHO, 1986). Active involvement of drug users in shaping drug services can, however, be traced back to the Netherlands in the 1970s.

More recently, as a step towards facilitating the involvement of drug user organisations at national and European level, the European Harm Reduction Network has started to compile an inventory of drug user organisations in Europe.

User involvement varies in form and pursues a range of different aims (Bröring and Schatz, 2008). Activities may include service user surveys on accessibility and quality of services, seeking users’ advice on staff recruitment, conducting focus groups to develop new service areas and the inclusion of user organisations in health advocacy and drug policymaking. Drug user organisations are often engaged in peer support and education on infectious disease prevention, and in the production of information materials that support networking and help to raise public awareness about the main problems for drug users (Hunt et al., 2010). Involving users can be a pragmatic and ethical way to ensure the quality and acceptability of services. However, in order to empower drug users to contribute and to ensure that user involvement succeeds, adequate support is necessary.

See also the European Harm Reduction Network website.

Bröring, G. and Schatz, E. (editors) (2008), Empowerment and self-organisations of drug users: experiences and lessons learnt, Foundation Regenboog AMOC, Amsterdam (available online).

Hunt, N., Albert, E. and Montañés Sánchez, V. (2010), 'User involvement and user organising in harm reduction', in: EMCDDA (2010), Harm reduction: evidence, impacts and challenges, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

WHO (1986), Ottawa Charter for health promotion, World Health Organization, Geneva (available online). 

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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