Measuring, understanding and responding to drug problems in Europe

New-style EMCDDA expert meetings promote integrated approach to monitoring

The first EMCDDA week on ‘Measuring, understanding and responding to drug problems in Europe’ opens today in Lisbon, gathering experts from across the European Union, as well as the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United States and international organisations.

The initiative represents a new and integrated take on the usual format of the agency’s five yearly expert meetings, to date dedicated to each of the EMCDDA key epidemiological indicators (1).  This week, the agency brings together its technical work in a number of fields, namely:

  • measuring drug problems, through the EMCDDA problem drug use indicator;
  • understanding drug problems and treatment uptake, through the EMCDDA treatment demand indicator; 
  • monitoring health and social responses to drug problems.

The aim of the initiative is to inspire cross-discipline analyses of the drugs problem and responses to it. Through the event, the agency also intends to obtain greater value from these annual meetings, strengthening what have become over the last 10 years valuable networks of excellence.

The initiative is the agency’s first treatment-related meeting since the adoption last year of a new EMCDDA strategy on treatment data collection and analyses (2). This strategy seeks to improve the value of the agency’s data collection for national health policymakers and treatment programme managers who wish to shape or expand the treatment offer in their country. The strategy reflects the scaling up and growing integration of treatment and other health and social responses to drug use witnessed in Europe over the last decade.

During the week, discussions will address the use of data to determine treatment need and coverage. Talks will also focus on better understanding problem drug users by looking at clients admitted to drug treatment services and documenting new trends in drug use. At the end of the week, sessions will be dedicated to the agency’s work on estimating the number of problem drug users in Europe. Here national analyses of the prevalence and incidence of high-risk drug use will be discussed and innovative monitoring methods explored.

Commenting today EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz said: ‘It is high time for us to integrate our work on the epidemiological key indicators with that on interventions and policy issues. National decision-makers are currently faced with difficult choices and competing priorities. In such times, it is more important than ever that investments are based on a sound understanding of the drugs problem and of the measures that will deliver the greatest benefits. I hope that the discussions this week will help further develop our knowledge and make the best use of our data in order to provide policymakers with relevant information for sound decision-making’.


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