In December 2012, the European countries committed themselves through the adoption of a European Union Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 to take on a number of challenges, including the continued high incidence of blood-borne diseases, especially hepatitis C virus, among injecting drug users, the potential risks of new outbreaks of HIV infections related to injecting drugs use; the continuing high prevalence of numbers of drug-related deaths in the EU as well as the need to improve the quality, coverage and diversification of drug demand reduction services. The new Strategy aims to contribute to a measurable reduction of the demand for drugs, of drug dependence and of drug-related health and social risks and harms as one of five objectives.
To this end, among the ten priorities identified in the field of demand reduction are:
- investment in and further research on effective risk and harm reduction measures;
- expansion of availability, accessibility and coverage of effective and diversified drug treatment across the EU;
- scaling up the development, availability and coverage of drug demand reduction measures in prison settings, as appropriate and based on a proper assessment of the health situation and the needs of prisoners;
- the prevention of local and regional drug use epidemics, which may threaten the public health within the EU by ensuring coordinated and effective common approaches.
The objectives of the current strategy are coherent with previous EU Drugs Strategies, guiding member States’ actions regarding the prevention of health risks related to drug use, and adequate availability and accessibility of effective harm reduction services as highlighted already in the Council Recommendation on the prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug dependence of 18 June 2003. Data provided by the EMCDDA form the basis for the evaluation by the European Commission of previous EU Drugs Strategies and of the Council Recommendation.
The first of two consecutive Action Plans that will accompany the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 is currently under development.
In 2010, the EMCDDA published in its 10th scientific monograph entitled ‘Harm reduction: evidence, impacts and challenges’, which provides a comprehensive overview of the harm reduction field. Part I of the monograph looks back at the emergence of harm reduction approaches and their diffusion, and explores the concept from different perspectives, including international organisations, academic researchers and drug users. Part II is dedicated to current evidence and impacts of harm reduction and illustrates how the concept has broadened to cover a wide range of behaviours and harms. Part III addresses the current challenges and innovations in the field. The core audience of the monograph comprises policymakers, healthcare professionals working with drug users, as well as the wider interested public.