A Free European guide: Health and Social Responses to Drug Problems

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This guide and the associated package of online materials provide a reference point for planning or delivering health and social responses to drug problems in Europe. The most appropriate responses will depend on the specific drug problems, the contexts in which these occur and the types of intervention that are possible and socially acceptable. By providing key information on some of the most important drug issues for Europe and the responses available, this guide aims to assist those involved in tackling these challenges to develop new programmes and improve existing ones.

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This publication will be revised every three years. It complements the annual European Drug Report and the triennial European Drug Markets Report. Together these three reports aim to provide a comprehensive European picture in order to assist policymakers and practitioners to develop and implement policies and interventions that will contribute to a healthier and more secure Europe.

The EU Drug Strategy 2013–20 has the objectives of reducing drug demand, dependence, drug-related health and social harms, and the supply of drugs. The role of the EMCDDA is to support the strategy by providing ‘factual, objective, reliable and comparable information at European level concerning drugs and drug addiction and their consequences’; collecting information on emerging trends; and providing information on best practice in the EU Member States and facilitating the exchange of such practice between them. To achieve this, the EMCDDA gathers information from a wide range of partners, in particular, the Reitox network, which is made up of national focal points in the EU Member States, Norway and Turkey. This guide fulfils the EMCDDA’s mandate with respect to the objectives of reducing drug demand and the health and social consequences of drug use. It does not cover drug markets and supply reduction, which are covered in the European Drug Markets Report. Drug use and its associated problems is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon which changes over time. Therefore, the responses required to prevent and ameliorate the associated harms to individuals and societies are, of necessity, many and varied. Moreover, they will need to be adapted to changing patterns of both drug use and problems and to different national contexts. As a result, providing a comprehensive review of health and social responses to drug problems in Europe is not feasible, so instead this publication has been designed to provide an introduction to the topic, with more detailed coverage of some of the most salient drug issues from a European perspective. Importantly, it provides a gateway to online resources that offer more in-depth information and which will be regularly updated.

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Health and social responses to drug use and related problems occur at various levels and can be approached from many angles. These include different: structural levels – European, national, regional, local, service level;

  • perspectives – policy, planner, practitioner; and
  • target groups – whole populations, subgroups, individuals.

At one end of the spectrum, national policymakers and planners may be trying to find broad public health responses to a range of interlinked drug problems. Equally important, frontline practitioners may be concerned with identifying the most appropriate way to respond to the needs of individual clients. In reality, the needs of planners and those of practitioners may not be so different from each other, although the breadth and scale of the challenges they face may differ. Both will be required to undertake some form of assessment of the current situation, make decisions based on the range of possible interventions available and information on what works or is effective, and develop a plan for implementation and follow-up. While this guide is primarily geared towards those approaching drug problems from a public health planning perspective, both local and national, the mapping of approaches, links to evidence and tools will also be useful for frontline workers and responders.

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You can download this guide for free here.

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