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Country overview: Netherlands

  • Situation summary


Key figures
  Year The Netherlands EU (28 countries) Source
Population  2013 16 779 575 505 665 739
Population by age classes 15–24  2013 12.2 % 11.5 %
25–49 33.5 % 35.0 %
50–64 20.3 % 19.7 % 
GDP per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards) 1  2012 128 100 Eurostat
Total expenditure on social protection (% of GDP) 2  2011 32.3 % p 29.0% p Eurostat
Unemployment rate 3  2013 6.7 % 10.8 % Eurostat
Unemployment rate of population aged under 25 years  2013 11.0 % 23.4 % Eurostat
Prison population rate (per 100 000 of national population) 4  2012 67.7  : Council of Europe, SPACE I-2012
At risk of poverty rate 5  2012 10.1 % 17.0 % e SILC

p Eurostat provisional value.

e Estimated.

1 Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. The volume index of GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) is expressed in relation to the European Union (EU-27) average set to equal 100. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country's level of GDP per head is higher than the EU average and vice versa.

2  Expenditure on social protection contains: benefits, which consist of transfers, in cash or in kind to households and individuals to relieve them of the burden of a defined set of risks or needs.

3 Unemployment rates represent unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force. Unemployed persons comprise persons aged 15 to 74 who were: (a) without work during the reference week; (b) currently available for work; (c) actively seeking work.

4 Situation of penal institutions on 1 September, 2012.

5 Share of persons aged 0+ with an equivalent disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income (after social transfers).

Drug use among the general population and young people

General population surveys on drug use prevalence were carried out in the Netherlands in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009 among adults aged 15–64. In 2009 the sample size consisted of 5 769 respondents. Some 25.7 % of respondents reported lifetime prevalence of cannabis use. The gender gap regarding cannabis use remains wide — last year prevalence of cannabis use was about 2.3 times higher among males than females (9.8 % and 4.2 % respectively). Lifetime prevalence of ecstasy use was 6.2 %, and last year prevalence was 1.4 %. Cocaine was the third most popular ‘ever used’ drug, with lifetime prevalence of 5.2 %. More than a third of those aged 15–34 (36.8 %) reported ever having used cannabis, followed by ecstasy at 11.6 % and cocaine at 7.6 %. Last year prevalence of cannabis use among young adults was 13.7 %, while 7.7 % reported using cannabis in the last 30 days. However, due to methodological changes in the latest survey, prevalence data from 2009 are not comparable to those of previous years. Therefore trends in drug use cannot be determined.

European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) studies among students aged 15–16 have been carried out regularly for many years, with the most recent survey carried out in 2011. The results for illicit drug use show an increasing trend in cannabis use since 1988, which stabilised between 1996 and 2007 at a lifetime prevalence rate of 28 %. In 2011 the lifetime prevalence rate of cannabis use was 27 %. The percentage of students using drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine or heroin is much lower. Inhalants were the most popular drug after cannabis, with lifetime prevalence reported at 7 %, followed by ecstasy at 4 %, cocaine and LSD at 2 % and heroin and amphetamines at 1 %. Results indicated 23 % for last year prevalence of cannabis use (25 % in 2007; 23 % in 2007), and 14 % for last month prevalence (15 % in 2007; 13 % in 2003). With regard to gender, the reported lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was 34 % among males and 21 % among females.

The results of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) 2009/10 survey among students aged 15–16 indicated the lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was 21 %, which is a significant decline when compared to 2002 data (26 %). Slightly more males than females reported cannabis use (23 % and 18 % respectively), while significantly more males than females reported heavy use (2.9 % and 0.4 % respectively).

Several national and local studies, inter alia, inquiring about cannabis use were carried out from 2005–09 among the general population. The Dutch National School Surveys on Substance Abuse is carried out every three or four years, with the most recent in 2011. The results of those studies are available in the reports on the Netherlands drug situation for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In 2013 an online survey among a convenience sample of 3 335 people aged 15–35 who had visited parties, festivals and clubs found that the last year prevalence of cannabis use was about three times higher among this group of (frequent) visitors to different nightlife settings, while for cocaine it was about ten times higher, and for ecstasy twenty times higher than among the general population, with older age and higher education having a protective effect on the use of illicit drugs in a nightlife settings. The survey also measured the prevalence of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)/gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) use and the use of new psychoactive substances. An Antenna study, using mixed methods, has been implemented since 1993 in Amsterdam, and targets adolescents and young adults in nightlife settings and some neighbourhoods.

In 2010 pilot projects were carried out to measure metabolites of illicit substances in wastewater in four major Dutch cities. The findings indicated that cocaine metabolites dominated in all cities, while the highest level of amphetamine was detected in Eindhoven.

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The recent trend in Dutch drug policy is a shift towards stricter legal measures against cannabis-related criminality and a stricter policy against nuisance associated with coffee shops, although the focus on health promotion remains an important aspect of drug policy and a national prevention programme for 2014–16 was launched in 2014. The programme implies that an individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own health behaviour, while the national government should provide professionals and citizens with reliable and accessible information. Priority is given to high-risk groups and young people, and activities in recreational settings, especially those tackling the use of illicit and licit substances, predominate. A new development in the area of prevention is a clear focus on implementation rather than researching new interventions. Prevention activities are funded mainly by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. However, local municipalities are responsible for carrying out the prevention programmes in close cooperation with the schools and national entities involved in health promotion and substance prevention. In order to support municipalities and promote evidence-based prevention interventions a national database of evaluated prevention projects is hosted by the Centre for Healthy Living of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. Universal prevention is carried out in schools through the programme The Healthy School and Drugs, and outside schools by the Going Out, Alcohol and Drugs programme. The Healthy School and Drugs programme was established more than 10 years ago and remains the leading school-based prevention programme in the Netherlands. The programme comprises several lectures in secondary school on alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. There are several e-learning modules for lower vocational education and on driving under the influence, and the programme includes basic and expanded courses for teachers on the early identification of drug use among students. A Swedish programme, Preventing Heavy Alcohol Use in Adolescents (Örebro programme), has been effectively implemented in the Netherlands. The project Alcohol and Drug Prevention at Clubs and Pubs tries to create a healthy and safe nightlife environment using a healthy settings approach. The focus is on reducing the high-risk use of substances among young people and its related problems. Increasingly, electronic media and new applications are used to provide information and counselling on drug-related issues, for example the Drugs Information Line.

More attention has been given in recent years to a shift towards selective prevention interventions. These interventions, carried out by non-governmental organisations in cooperation with government services, are mostly targeted at children of addicted parents, and youths on the streets, from socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods, in special institutional settings (such as child residential care or custodial institutions), and in recreational settings. The programmes in recreational settings focus on the implementation of safe clubbing regulations and person-to-person interventions, including the testing of substances, in club premises (e.g. the Centre on Safe and Healthy Nightlife). Recently, prevention programmes for young people with a slight mental retardation and those who hang around on streets have been piloted. In 2011 a new initiative, based on the Australian Adolescence Cannabis Check-Up, was launched in 19 locations and also online to target young cannabis users with a low motivation for abstinence. The programme uses a non-offending motivational enhancement technique to encourage the participants to re-evaluate their cannabis use practices.

In the indicated prevention area, activities focusing on early identification of substance use or dependence are on the increase. A special guide for professionals working with young people was published in 2010. In addition to information, the guide also provides several tools, such as a step-by-step identification process, a screening card and motivational enhancement. In 2012 new interventions targeting GHB users and young people from immigrant communities (e.g. Turkish) were launched.

View ‘Prevention profile’ for additional information.

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High-risk drug use

Up to 2012 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defined problem drug use as injecting drug use (IDU) or long duration/regular drug use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines. Ecstasy and cannabis were not included in this category. However, in 2012 a new definition of ‘high-risk drug use’ was adopted. The new definition includes ‘problem drug use’, but is broader (mainly in its inclusion of high-risk use of more substances). Details are available here.

The most recent estimate of the problem opioid user population was calculated in 2012 using the treatment multiplier, and suggested that there were around 14 000 problem opioid users (range: 12 700 to 16 300). This corresponds to a rate of 0.84 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64 (range: 0.76 to 0.97). Available data indicate a decline in the estimated number of opioid users since the beginning of the century. The ageing of the opioid user population and the low popularity of opiates among younger drug users are suggested as reasons for the trend.

Estimates based on the 2009 general population survey data suggest that 1.3 % of 15- to 64-year-old inhabitants of the Netherlands used cannabis daily or almost daily.

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Treatment demand

The National Alcohol and Drugs Information System (LADIS) is the most comprehensive information system on treatment demand clients in the Netherlands. LADIS contains data from the regular drug treatment services, and provides nationwide coverage. However, some private clinics and some addiction units in general and psychiatric hospitals do not participate in the system yet, and in 2011 probation services discontinued their participation in LADIS. In 2012 a total of 190 of the 200 outpatient and inpatient units and low-threshold agencies submitted treatment demand data to LADIS.

Data showed that in 2012 a total of 10 801 clients entered treatment, of which 6 129 were new clients entering treatment for the first time. Some 48 % of all treatment clients reported cannabis as their primary drug, followed by 27 % for cocaine and 12 % for opioids. A slightly different distribution was identified among new treatment clients, with 58 % requesting treatment for cannabis, followed by 22 % for cocaine and 6.0 % for opioids. Traditionally, injecting drug use is rare among treatment clients, and the proportion of drug injectors among all treatment clients is below 1 %.

With regard to age and gender, 35 % of all treatment clients in 2012 were over the age of 35 and 31 % were under the age of 25. Among new treatment clients, 26 % were over 35 and 42 % were under 25. The majority (80 %) of all clients entering treatment were male. A slightly lower percentage of males was reported among new treatment clients, at 78 %.

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Drug-related infectious diseases

The National HIV/AIDS Registration of the HIV Monitoring Foundation monitors people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) who attend HIV treatment centres. In 2012 some 843 new HIV diagnoses were reported in the treatment centres. In four cases injecting drug use was the most likely route of transmission. People who inject drugs (PWID) were defined as those who had injected at least once in their lifetime and who had used hard drugs at least one day per week in the last six months.

The prospective Amsterdam Cohort Study, initiated in 1985, had recruited 1 658 (injecting) drug users by the end of 2011. On entering the study, 322 (19 %) drug users were tested as HIV positive, while 19 persons became HIV positive during the observation time. The data from the cohort indicated a sharp reduction in HIV transmission among PWID between 1986 and 2000, with sporadic new HIV cases detected between 2001 and 2011. This is linked to a decline in drug injecting and sharing of injecting equipment.

In Amsterdam, one of the 78 (1.2 %) injecting drug users in methadone substitution treatment tested in 2012 was HIV positive.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection notification data are reported by the municipal health services to the national Institute of Public Health and Environment. In 2012 there were no notifications of acute HBV infection among PWID out of 171 reported cases (88 cases with a known transmission route). In 2012 nine of 1 004 chronic HBV infections with a known transmission route were linked to injecting drug use. About 65 acute HCV infection cases were reported in 2011, and 54 had a known transmission route. Injecting drug use was reported as the likely transmission route for three cases. Available data from the Amsterdam Public Health Service suggests HBV prevalence rates at 18.4 % and HCV prevalence rates of 9.9 % among tested PWID in drug treatment settings. The Amsterdam Cohort data also indicates a decline in HCV incidence among those who had ever injected.

In general, available information suggests that the incidence of HIV, HBV and HCV has remained at low levels for many years in the Netherlands, which is attributed to the widely available harm reduction services.

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Drug-induced deaths and mortality among drug users

The main source providing the official Dutch statistics on drug-induced deaths is the General Mortality Register or Causes of Deaths Statistics managed by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). The register has national coverage and only includes residents of the Netherlands. Cases are classified according to ICD-10 and refer mainly to direct or acute deaths (drug overdoses). Data extraction and reporting is in line with the EMCDDA definitions and recommendations. Data on drug-induced deaths among non-residents are available from a separate database.

In 2012 some 118 drug-induced deaths were registered. The majority of cases were male (95). The mean age of victims was 42 years.

Between 1996 and 2012 the total number of recorded drug-induced deaths fluctuated between a minimum of 94 cases in 2010 and a maximum of 144 cases in 2001. Despite some fluctuations over the years, the total number of drug-induced deaths in the Netherlands has remained relatively low. This might be explained by low numbers of socially marginalised problem drug users, widely available prevention and treatment measures targeting high-risk drug users and a low rate of injecting drug use.

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15–64 years) was 10.2 deaths per million in 2012, lower than the European average of 17.1 deaths per million.

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Treatment responses

Responsibility for the organisation, implementation and coordination of addiction care in the Netherlands is delegated to regional and local authorities, and is part of the broader mental healthcare agenda. Drug treatment is mainly delivered by non-governmental organisations on a regional level, and also by private organisations including physicians, hospitals and private clinics. Drug treatment is also provided in regional public hospitals. In the past decade, however, the number of addiction service providers has reduced considerably due to the many mergers that took place in the Dutch mental healthcare and addiction care services for economic reasons. Addiction care is provided by 13 addiction care and treatment institutes, of which seven are merged with mental health institute and one with an institute for social support. Municipal public health services, general psychiatric hospitals, several religious organisations and 10 private clinics also offer care for people with addictions. Addiction care is also available in the criminal justice sector, and within the probation services.

Funding for drug treatment is mainly provided by health insurance, while the public budget for social support at the national and local levels is mainly provided for special projects, such as heroin-assisted therapy. In 2012 out-of-pocket payments for addiction treatment were increased, which reduced the number of outpatient treatment clients, and created resistance from care providers. As a result, in October 2012 the measure was cancelled.

The options for drug treatment interventions in the Netherlands are diverse. Outpatient opioid substitution treatment (OST) is dominant for opiate dependence. Psychosocial interventions are more frequently provided to complement OST in order to achieve longer-term effectiveness, reduce relapses and promote social reintegration. In recent years, however, new treatment options for young cannabis users, people with multiple (addiction and mental health) problems, and crack and GHB users have been introduced. Additionally, new treatment settings for homeless drug users in several municipalities have been opened. In 2012 agreements were reached among main stakeholders and funding institutions in mental health to gradually reduce the number of beds in long-term residential mental health care settings, including addiction services, and to expand outpatient services, services through general practitioners and e-health interventions (e.g. Drugsondercontrole).

Psychosocial treatments frequently used in drug treatment centres include motivational interviewing, relapse prevention techniques, cognitive-behavioural therapies, and family, community and home-based treatment therapies.

Methadone has been the most commonly prescribed substitution substance since 1968. Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT, introduced in 1998) and high-dosage buprenorphine treatment (introduced in 1999) are also available. HAT is provided at municipality treatment units and is used with a restricted and controlled group of treatment-resistant opiate users. Methadone, on the other hand, is available via various outpatient treatment providers, including office-based practitioners and mobile units.

According to the latest available data (2012), a total of 9 556 clients were in methadone maintenance treatment. The number of people receiving buprenorphine-based maintenance treatment is not available.

View ‘Treatment profile’ for additional information.

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Harm reduction responses

In the Netherlands, the differences between outreach work, low-threshold services, harm reduction activities, and the term ‘social addiction care’ are difficult to define. The first goal is to make and maintain contact with difficult-to-reach drug users (hidden populations). All four attempt to motivate difficult-to-reach drug users to participate in some kind of treatment to prevent their individual and/or social situation from worsening. If this is not feasible, support is given to these drug users to help them reduce drug-related harm.

Most outreach work is carried out by low-threshold services in outpatient care facilities. These services are active in ‘street corner work’, offering daytime shelter in drop-in centres for street-based problem drug users, ‘living room’ projects for drug-using prostitutes and drug consumption rooms for chronic hard drug users. Other target groups are injecting drug users, extremely problematic drug users, and drug users from foreign countries. Outreach activities also feature in programmes for reducing drug-related public nuisance, which are often a collaborative venture between treatment and care facilities, police and civil groups. Outreach work is often ‘on the spot’ education (i.e. at places where young people meet), applying peer support techniques. Another approach is targeting drug users who have been imprisoned, for example by offering pre-release counselling.

Needle and syringe programmes have been established for more than 20 years in the Netherlands and are available in all major Dutch cities. These programmes are mainly implemented by street drugs workers, addiction care providers and, to a much lesser extent, by pharmacists. There are around 150 specialist agencies for needle and syringe programmes in the Netherlands. There are no national registration data on the number of syringes and needles exchanged. However, data from Amsterdam show that from 1990 to 1993 approximately one million needles were exchanged. Since 1993 there has been a sharp decline, to 146 000 syringes in 2012. In Rotterdam, the number of syringes given out in the same year dropped to around 91 400 (including some police stations), from 422 400 in 2000. The decline in the number of needles and syringes exchanged can be explained by several factors, such as the reduction of heroin injecting in general, the reduction of the injecting drug use population and the reduced popularity of injecting as such. Therefore it is assumed that the majority of people who inject drugs and are in need of clean injecting equipment are covered by the existing programmes. There are also 37 drug consumption rooms targeting various audiences: injectors, smokers, and sometimes exclusively alcohol users.

A national HBV vaccination campaign targeting behavioural risk groups has been implemented since 2002. This campaign offers screening for HBV infection and vaccination for vulnerable people. Approximately 18 600 PWID have benefited from the programme since its inception. However, from 2012 drug users no longer have access to this free programme, as it was thought that the HBV risk rate had been substantially reduced among this group.

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Drug markets and drug-law offences

The Netherlands has a pivotal position within international drugs trade, and thus plays a major role as a transit country for heroin, cocaine and other illicit substances. The supply of heroin to Europe, including to the Netherlands, is mainly dependent on the production of opium in Afghanistan. The Netherlands is an endpoint of the Balkan route, while the northern route along the Black Sea is used as an alternative. Heroin is distributed from the Netherlands to other western European countries. Cocaine is supplied from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia via African countries, from where it is delivered by boat to Antwerp (in Belgium) or Rotterdam, to be smuggled on to other European countries. No substantial new developments were observed by the National Police Agency in the domestic production of cannabis in the Netherlands. The main destinations for cannabis produced in the Netherlands are the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Scandinavian countries. In 2012 some 5 773 cannabis plantations were dismantled. Cannabis resin is smuggled to the Netherlands via sea from Morocco.

In 2012 the National Crime Squad dismantled 42 synthetic drugs production locations, while 30 of these facilities were seized in 2011.

Data on drug seizures in the Netherlands are collected centrally by the National Police Agency. The registration includes data from the regional police departments, customs, the Royal Military Police and the Synthetic Drugs Unit (now part of the National Police Force). Not all departments report each year; this, and the lack of a uniform registration system, hampers the quality of the data collected and thus data are not fully complete and trends cannot be reported. In 2012 some 2 200 kg of cannabis resin, 12 600 kg of herbal cannabis,1.4 million cannabis plants, 750 kg of heroin, 10 tons of cocaine, more than 2.4 million ecstasy tablets, 680 kg of amphetamine and 0.5 kg of methamphetamine were seized in the Netherlands.

In 2012 a total of 18 150 offences against the Opium Act were registered by the Public Prosecutor, more than was registered in 2009–11. Around half of all reports are linked to cannabis. The increase in the number of offences might be attributed to an intensification in police actions directed at cannabis production.

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National drug laws

The Netherlands Opium Act, which came into force in 1928 and was fundamentally amended in 1976, is the basis for the present drug legislation. It defines drug trafficking, cultivation and production, dealing and possession of drugs as criminal acts. The Act and its amendments confirm the distinction between ‘hard’ drugs (e.g. heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines) and ‘soft’ drugs (e.g. cannabis or hallucinogenic mushrooms); there is a proposal to place cannabis that has over 15 % THC in the list of hard drugs. Furthermore, criteria defining the ‘professional cultivation of cannabis’ for prosecution purposes were also revised in the Opium Act Directive. The new psychoactive substances are regulated through amendments of relevant Schedules of the Opium Act, but prosecution may also be based on the Medicines Act.

Drug use does not constitute a crime in legal terms. However, there are situations when the use of drugs is prohibited on a local level and on behalf of the public order, such as at schools and on public transport. It is up to the responsible authorities — which is not the national government — to regulate this.

The possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use is accorded a much lower priority. Anyone found in possession of less than 0.5 g of Schedule I (i.e. ‘hard’) drugs will generally not be prosecuted, though the police will confiscate the drugs and refer the individual to a care agency. The threshold amount for cannabis is set at 5 g. However, a new formulation was introduced in the Opium Directive Act in 2012. In place of the wording ‘a police dismissal should follow if a cannabis user is caught with less than 5 grams of cannabis’, it now states that ‘in principle a police dismissal will follow if a person is carrying less than 5 grams of cannabis’, which opens the way to the arrest and prosecution of people in possession of less than 5 g of cannabis in certain circumstances.

Drug users are convicted when they have committed a crime such as selling, theft, robbery or burglary. A special law — the measure of Placement in an Institution for Prolific Offenders (ISD) — was introduced in 2004, meant for the treatment of prolific offenders, of which problematic drug users are a major percentage. The measure consists of a combination of imprisonment and behavioural interventions and treatment, which is mostly carried out in care institutions outside prison.

Importing and exporting any classified drug is considered a serious offence. The penalty for importing drugs may be up to 12 years’ imprisonment.

View ‘Legal profile’ for additional information.

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National drug strategy

The 1995 white paper ‘Drug policy: continuity and change’ set out some of the basic principles of Dutch drug policy on illicit drugs. These included a distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs, and the white paper took a balanced and integrated approach. It also outlined four major objectives: (i) to prevent drug use and to treat and rehabilitate drug users; (ii) to reduce harm to users; (iii) to diminish public nuisance caused by drug users; and (iv) to combat the production and trafficking of drugs.

Following the publication of the 1995 white paper, other aspects of Dutch drug policy have been elaborated in different strategies and policy notes or letters to Parliament focused on specific drugs and issues.

In 2001 the white paper ‘A combined effort to combat ecstasy’ discussed the intensification of law enforcement efforts to tackle the production and trafficking of ecstasy. This policy was put on a continuing basis in 2007. Cocaine was addressed in 2002 through the ‘Plan to combat drug trafficking at Schiphol airport’, which was also given a continuous footing in subsequent years. In 2004 the ‘Cannabis policy document’ adopted a more restrictive approach to cannabis and especially to professional cannabis production. The medical prescription of heroin to treat chronic and treatment-resistant opiate addicts was established as a regular part of the treatment system in 2009. Organised crime in relation to synthetic drugs, heroin, cocaine and the large-scale cultivation of cannabis were targeted as priority areas in the Police and the Public Prosecution Office policy letter for 2008–12 and again for 2012–16. In 2009 a policy letter to the Parliament, ‘Letter outlining the new Dutch policy’, placed an increased emphasis on prevention and the reduction of drug use. It also adjusted the ‘coffee shop’ policy to make the establishments small, principally for local users and restricting the number of shops to reflect the local situation, and established an integrated approach for fighting organised crime.

In the current Opium Act Directive the objective of the drug policy is described as follows: ‘The [new] Dutch drugs policy is aimed to discourage and reduce drug use, certainly in so far as it causes damage to health and to society, and to prevent and reduce the damage associated with drug use, drug production and the drugs trade’ (Stc 2011–11134).

More recently, the ‘Drug policy letter’ of 27 May 2011 of the Rutte I administration set out the two pillars of Dutch drug policy: (i) the protection of public health; and (ii) combating public nuisance and organised crime. This policy letter also outlined the alterations to the accessibility of coffee shops so they would become closed clubs, only accessible to Dutch adult residents. Follow-up policy letters in October and December 2011 further elaborated the changes to be made to the coffee shop system. This included altering the Opium Law to make the shops closed member-only clubs, and putting resident criteria in place. However, a policy letter from the Minister of Security and Justice in November 2012 under the Rutte II administration confirmed that the additional closed club criteria would not be implemented, while the residence criteria remain in place (entering into force nationally from 1 January 2013). In a policy letter from April 2012 the Minister of Security and Justice established that the mayors of the municipalities are primarily responsible for the enforcement of the criteria, often in close cooperation with the police. Sanctions for violating the criteria may be administrative and/or criminal.

View ‘National drug strategies’ for additional information.

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Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

Responsibility for Dutch drug policy is shared between several ministries. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is tasked with the coordination of drug policy, while the Ministry of Security and Justice is responsible for law enforcement and matters relating to local government and the police. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of certain issues, including matters relating to HIV/AIDS and injecting drug use, on behalf of the Government at the international level. Regular coordination takes place through meetings between drug policy managers at the relevant ministries.

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Public expenditure

In the Netherlands there is no budget earmarked beforehand in the drug policy documents and there is no review of executed expenditures. The number of overall estimations of drug-related public expenditure is also limited, with only one study in this area (1). The methods used are not fully explained and information is sometimes fragmented or forms a part of broader budgets. The study’s results were questioned by later research (2,3).

The available study estimated that for 2003 total drug-related public expenditure (4) represented 0.5 % of gross domestic product (1). Most of the expenditure was attributed to law enforcement (75 %), treatment (13 %), harm reduction (10 %) and prevention (2 %).

The available information does not allow the total size and trends in drug-related public expenditure in the Netherlands in recent years to be reported.

(1) H. Rigter (2006), ‘What drug policies cost: drug policy spending in the Netherlands in 2003’, Addiction 101, pp. 323–329.

(2) D. E. G. Moolenaar (2009), ‘Modelling criminal justice system costs by offence: lessons from the Netherlands’, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 15, pp. 309–326.

(3) B. Nauta, D. E. G. Moolenaar and F. P. Van Tulder (2011), ‘Kosten van criminaliteit’, in S. N. Kalidien and N. E. De Heer-De Lange (eds), Criminaliteit en rechtshandhaving 2010: ontwikkelingen en samenhangen, Raad voor de Rechtspraak/WODC/CBS, Den Haag, pp. 241–270.

(4) Some of the funds allocated by governments for expenditure on tasks related to drugs are identified as such in the budget (‘labelled’). Often, however, the bulk of drug-related expenditure is not identified (‘unlabelled’) and must be estimated by modelling approaches. The total budget is the sum of labelled and unlabelled drug-related expenditure.

View ‘Public expenditure profile’ for additional information.

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Drug-related research

Drug research in the Netherlands is extensive and covers many domains. Public funding of drug-related research is to a large extent delegated to intermediary agencies, although ministries and municipalities also directly fund a considerable number of research projects. Many academic institutions are involved in drug research, sometimes together with researchers from institutes for addiction care. A national meeting is organised annually for drug researchers to stay informed about recent developments. The number of publications in national and international scientific journals is extensive. The development and implementation of multidisciplinary evidence-based guidelines, protocols and training materials are the most important channels for disseminating drug-related research findings from the scientific community to practitioners and decision-makers. The Netherlands National Focal Point maintains part of the website of the Trimbos Institute to disseminate reports on research findings. Recent drug-related studies mentioned in the 2013 Dutch National report mainly focused on aspects related to responses to the drug situation, the consequences of drug use and the prevalence, incidence and patterns of drug use, but also includes studies on the mechanisms of drug use and effects, methodology issues and supply and markets.

View ‘Drug-related research’ for additional information.

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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: Wednesday, 25 June 2014