On November 7th ECAD was invited by Public Policy Exchange to Brussels to comment upon the new
European Union Action Plan on drugs 2017-2020. The EU Drug Strategy 2013-2020
consists of overarching objectives concretised into two sets of action plans
from 2013-2016 and 2017-2020.

ECAD Secretary General remarked that the action plan represents a solid and diverse sets of actions
with which to address drug use and addiction but it could be better balanced to
emphasize evidence based primary prevention and the ambition to fully recover
drug addicts from their addiction.

It is the experience of ECAD that there exists a genuine distrust in the ability to prevent drug use
more than at the margin, among EU policy makers. The distrust could be
summarized in the following way.

The younger generation is not receptive to an adult message of don't use drugs. Many interventions and
programs to prevent drug use have proved insufficient and/or counterproductive
and is therefore a waste of time and resources. Further, drug use has not
decreased in the EU as a whole while drug related deaths are on the rise,
partially related to the use of NPS such as fentanyl.

While there is some truth to this assessment, EU policy makers would be wise to carefully
scrutinize the European country that has consistently managed to reduce use of
substances for more than 20 years – Iceland. On Iceland, evidence based primary
prevention is revolutionizing our understanding of how drug use and other
problematic behaviour of adolescents can be prevented.

Evidence based primary prevention is not about making young people receptive to a message of non-drug
use or changing their attitudes. It is about engineering the environment in
which young people grow up to strengthen protective factors and weaken risk
factors. All should be based on consistent research and monitoring and a
dialogue between researchers, policy makers and those implementing the changes.
The Icelandic model is not magic, it is not a fancy new program or sets of
actions that will immediately change the situation but a slow and consistent
progress aimed at changing the behaviour of youth. It is also well researched
by more than 100 scientific articles.

ECAD Secretary General also expressed his views on the importance of having belief on the ability of
recovery from drug addiction in clients in need of treatment services. ECAD is
a part of a two year long EU project on recovery from drug addiction with
partners from across Europe. The key findings are that drug use are in many
cases a recoverable condition if given the right tools.

The problem some of our member cities face is how to combine and connect health and harm reduction
services with psychosocial interventions and long term support, including after
care for those in recovery. How do we enable an environment that is receptive
to the needs of the recovered users and support or maintain the recovery
process without them falling off track and relapsing?

The EU action plan has the right sets of tools in place for the promotion of recovery across union
member states. However, the action plan is geared towards risk and harm
reduction services which are easy to implement and monitor and have clear
indicators of success. Being in treatment or in a needle exchange program is
easy to assess and measure. Those recovering on the their own or with the
support of family and friends is harder to follow up on.

The Secretary General opened up for a discussion on a new set of indicators of success for people
with drug use problems that could be applicable to both risk and harm reduction
services as well as treatment services. Self-reported quality of life, payment
of tax, ability to hold a job, engagement with volunteerism etc could be
discussed as measures of success of drug addicts in treatment and recovery.