Sustainable, healthy and safe communities - how to design a modern and ambitious drug control system

The world drug problem is solved locally. In every city, in every school and in every home.

On July 16-17th ECAD was presenting its findings to delegates at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the conference titled Combating the Threat of Illicit Drugs and the Diversion of Chemical Precursors, Vienna. ECAD spoke about the organsations work to counteract the European drug problem by drug demand reduction efforts aimed at environmental and primary prevention as well as the promotion of full recovery from addiction. 

Drugs have been used for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes since dawn of men. But yesterday’s use shares little resemblance to today’s global drug markets. Commercialization and advances in chemistry and communications have profoundly altered the toxicity and speed with which drugs traverse our globe during the last century.

The global drug control system is being strained but is our best hope to counteract the devasting impact from illicit drugs. Regulations of legal drugs are not successful examples to follow. Community-based and scientifically grounded actions and interventions at local level that targets the causes for substance use as well as vulnerabilities to organized crime can make the world drug problem significantly smaller.

ECAD´s point of departure for its work are the following assumptions:

- Drugs are the most harmful when made legal and commercially promoted

- Levels of drugs use can be addressed

- Drug addiction is in most cases a recoverable condition

- Adress vulnerabilities to organized crime to mitigate harms from the drug trade

The message of our presentation was that countries should adhere to the international principles to which they have already signed, i.e defend the integrity of the drug control conventions. Countries (Canada) that unilaterally breaches the international treaties they have signed on for and on which the rest of the worlds drug control system is reliant upon, should think twice before they legalize drugs.

If countries want to achieve a serious and long term reduction in drug demand they would do wise to study the true success story of the world - Iceland. An evidence based mapping of local risk and protective factors and subsequent long term and holistic change of the local environment in which youngsters are brought up can bring about a population level reduction in their willingness to take drugs.

To fully make people recover from drug addiction underlying issues that preceded drug need to be adressed. Drug treatment need to take into account and solve more problems than those posed by the drugs and equip persons with tools to adress challenges in life without drugs. A sustainable recovery takes time and need to be supported years after intitial treatment and stabilisation to increase likelihood of success.

To mitigate the harms posed by traffickers and criminals operating on drug money law enforcement would do well to cooperate with treatment and social service and act as an engine for the recovery of addicts with a criminal background. The presence of (large scale) organized crime in a society can be understood as a weakness in governance. The criminals need to be combatted and persecuted but to be sustainable, the governance weakness also need to be adressed.