(08.02.2023) On this day, 30 years ago, the adoption of Council Regulation (EEC) No 302/93 heralded the birth of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). This represented a key milestone in the history of European action on drugs and symbolised a major political decision to build drug policies on scientific evidence rather than on ideology (see 'Founding and early history of the EMCDDA'). The agency opened for business in Lisbon in 1995 and celebrated 25 years of monitoring in 2020.
Since its creation, the EMCDDA has provided strategic analysis in a policy area that cuts across health and security. Through our European drug monitoring system, we have improved the comparability of drug data across the EU, giving countries a ‘common language’ with which to describe the extent and effects of drug use. This has contributed to a deeper and broader understanding of the problem and built a sound evidence base to inform drug policies.
Part of the agency’s unique value is its comprehensive coverage of this multifaceted problem. With our Strategy 2025, we are committed to adding value to the work of EU and national drug policymakers and professionals. This will bring about better-informed drug policy and action, in line with the EU balanced approach to reduce drug supply and demand.
Now, 30 years on from the signature of the regulation, the agency is about to undergo major change. In January 2022, the European Commission proposed to strengthen the EMCDDA's mandate to ensure that the agency plays a more important role in identifying and addressing current and future challenges related to illicit drugs in the EU. The EMCDDA will transform into the European Union Drugs Agency in 2024 with new powers.
Negotiations on the new mandate are currently ongoing and are expected to be concluded this summer. The proposed changes include issuing alerts when dangerous substances are knowingly sold for illicit use, carrying out threat and risk assessments, monitoring the addictive use of substances taken together with illicit drugs, and developing competence though training and capacity-building. The agency will also play a stronger international role and support the EU's leadership on drug policy at multilateral level.
EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel says: ‘Use of illicit drugs has changed beyond all recognition since the agency began working in this field. Today, drugs are readily available in large quantities across the European Union. Almost anything with psychoactive potential is now at risk of appearing on the drug market, as lines blur between licit and illicit substances. Everyone can be impacted by drug use, whether directly or indirectly. This combination threatens to bring about a perfect storm of increased substance use and dependency. Addressing current and future challenges in the drugs field, and analysing changes in the dimensions and characteristics of the drugs problem, is a crucial activity in the interest of the EU and its citizens. We hope that the European Union Drugs Agency will contribute to making a difference in this area in the very near future’.