This year’s ECAD study visit to San Patrignano WeFree days gathered some 35 participants, from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Sweden.

The WeFree days is yearly event joined by 2,500 young participants from all over Italy and Europe, organized by San Patrignano, Europe’s largest rehabilitation community. Founded in 1978, the community helps young people from all walks of life to overcome histories of drug abuse and addiction. San Patrignano hosts nearly 1,500 young people, and has since its founding assisted over 30,0000 people.
The WeFree days gather experts and practitioners to raise awareness on the drug problem, emphasizing the importance of community service in the rehabilitation process. Read more: ECAD in SanPatrignano in October

The theme of the two main WeFree forums was Drugs and Violence – looking at drugs at the root of criminal systems and violent acts, ranging from terrorism to domestic violence.

In his key-note speech, Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nation’s Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, praised the San Patrignano model and its emphasis on social and community values in the rehabilitation process. ”The issue of drug use among young people is a real one, and the way San Patrignano is tackling it shows that when young people a given an opportunity, they can empower themselves and contribute to their communities,” Alhendawi said.

Among other speakers, we heard a strong presentation from Nicola Gratteri, Public Prosecutor and Magistrate in the frontlines of the war against Calabrian mafia organisation Ndrangheta, and living under police protection since 1989. He described Ndrangheta as the only ”globalized” mafia, operating in all five continents and claimed to have a revenue of McDonald’s and Deutsche Bank combined.

At the other end of the scale was Roberta Bruzzoni, criminologist, expert in forensic science and advisor to Telefono Rosa, (a helpline for victims of abuse against women and children), who through her work sees at first hand the results of often drug-induced domestic violence.

In connection with this year’s visit, the ECAD group also had a seminar on ”New Psychoactive Substances, synthetic opioids and Cannabinoids – A challenge for Europe?” with experts from Sweden (Kristina Hillgren) and Italy (Rita Santacroce). This was done within the framework of the ongoing Spice Alert Project in the Baltic Sea region and as a way of expanding the discussions` geography of the of NPS.

Many thanks to San Patrignano community for their hospitality on receiving us!

ECAD had a very informative conference on the novel psychoactive substances on the Baltic and European scale last week. The conference is the last one of the Baltic Spice Alert Project and it was preceded by a study visit to the Swedish Police and Maria Ungdom health and prevention unit, run by the Stockholm County Council and the City of Stockholm.

Read more: Risky trend: novel substance use ignored in a wider context

The reports presented by the Swedish Public Health Agency and the Swedish Council for information on Alcohol and other drugs underscored important concerns with the problematic forms of NPS use, mixing the new substances with other drugs, including prescription drugs. Harms discussed are related to the certain risk groups of users.

A few speakers mentioned the differences in defining NPS-related fatalities. This factor often let NPS merge with other narcotic substances in drug-related fatalities in the statistical picture or not to be taken into account at all. To sum the discusstion we had, there is a general risk to lose the novel psychoactive substances in a wider drug context. This is a practical issue that leaves room for improvement in the international measurement data for drug fatalities.

Synthetic cannabinoids represent the biggest group of these substances. From a health perspective, many synthetic cannabinoids are considerably more toxic, upsetting the drug misuse statistics of the Baltic region with mass poisonings and even fatalities in the last couple of years.
The presentation of Latvian and Estonian colleagues below have a good overview of the local problematic issues. It seems the cannabinoids have not yet lost their actuality among the Baltic youth and synthetic opioids (like Tramadol) and fentanyl-varieties are catching up in popularity, saturating the already saturated drug market in the Baltic Sea region. Some of these varieties are extremely potent (carfentanyl) and are causing serious trouble in other European countries too. For example, carfentanyl entered the UK market some time ago. In general, the NPS use have overgrown cocaine use in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The number of users is growing steadily also in the UK.

When reflecting on the high numbers of drug-related deaths in Sweden, the conference concluded that one could not accurately measure drug-related fatalities and be sure one had the correct comparable numbers even within one geographical area.


Swedish Public Health Agency`s perspective and work related to the NPS (PDF)
Sara Wall, Analyst, Unit for Drug Prevention, Public  Health Agency of Sweden

Parties to die for: NPS-related health risks among youth (PDF)
Rita Santacroce, MD, Psychiatrist and researcher, PhD student at the Department of Neuroscience, University “G. d´Annunzio”, Chieti, Italy 

Synthetic opioids and NPS (PDF)
Håkan Leifman, Director, CAN, Swedish Council for information on Alcohol and other drugs

City of Stockholm prevention work—general overview (PDF)
Therese Holmkvist, Project Manager, Administration of Social Affairs, City of Stockholm

The world of NPS and overdose (PDF)
John Corkery, BA Hons, MSs, MPhil, Drug Epidemiologist & Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy Practice, Psychopharmacology, Drug Misuse and Novel Psychoactive Substances Research, University of Hertfordshire, UK

Drug-related deaths and synthetic opioids and cannabinoids as seen by the Stockholm Police (PDF)
Lennart Karlsson, Superintendent, Stockholm Regional Police, Sweden

NPS in Latvia— challenges and responses : the Police perspective (PDF)
Angelina Gribova, Senior Inspector, Criminal Police, Latvia

NPS and high numbers of use among Estonian youth (PDF)
Anna Markina, researcher,
University of Tartu, Estonia

Estonian Police work with new synthetic substances (PDF)
Margo Kivila, leading Investigator, Drug and Organized Crime Division, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board

Synthetic opioids and Swedish Substance Maintenance Programme (LARO) (PDF)
Kerstin Käll, Chief Physician, leading LARO specialist in Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden

OBS: UPDATED PROGRAMME (as of 31 October)!

On November 3, Thursday, ECAD invites to discuss a common concern for many chemists, social workers, researchers, police officers, politicians and youth coordinators - new synthetic substances - at the Stockholm City Hall, Stora Kollegiesalen, between 09.00 and 16.00.

Conference title - "Synthetic opioids and cannabinoids - a challenge for the region" - has a focus on the Baltic sea geography, however, we have also invited highly qualified researchers from Italy and the UK, not to mention Swedish and Estonian specialists of course.


The common denominator is a growing number of drug-related deaths, articulated by the EMCDDA in its two latest reports, difficulties to identify the new substances when making autopsies, challenges in the prevention work with the young and a couple of extra sensitive aspects when working with the opioids.

The conference is organized by ECAD and is a part of the Baltic Spice Alert Project financed by the Swedish Institute. The project started addressing "Spices" as the common contemporary challenge causing fatalities in Latvia and Sweden in 2014. As the project discussions evolved, we added synthetic opioids as a relevant issue for the region at the moment.

Come and join our discussions on this actual and important topic!

To enter the City Hall you need to register for the conference. Please fill in the Booking form here (Word)  and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read more: ECAD to organize synthetic substance conference in Stockholm
The Golden Hall, City Hall, Stockholm


ECAD Balcan network has many very active cities, one of these is Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria. On Wednesday, October 26th, ECAD Secretary General attends the awardinRead more: ECAD speaks for the UN conventions in Blagoevgrad, Bulgariag ceremony of the nominated judges and police officers in the memory of Giovanni Falcone:

 "The coward dies every day, the courageous - only once" at the Municipality of Blagoevgrad.

The contest was established in 2009 by the city of Blagoevgrad with the assistance of the Italian Embassy in Bulgaria and also a personal support of Professor Maria Falcone and the foundation "Giovanni and Francesca Falcone", Palermo.

By pursuing its aims to support the efforts of these magistrates and police officers who risk their lives protecting public interests and prestige of the profession and to contribute to the reduction of criminal behavior, seen as a trend, both locally and at national level.

Erik Leijonmarck`s speech at the ceremony (can be also downoladed as PDF) :

Dear Mr Mayor,

Dear Mr State Governor,

Dear Mr Minister,

Your Excellency Ambassadors,

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for the hospitality of the city of Blagoevgrad shown to me and for inviting me here to speak on the award “the cowardly dies every day, the brave – only once” in memoriam of the Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone”.

My name is Erik Leijonmarck and I am secretary general of European Cities Action Network for Drug Free Societies (ECAD) which this city, Blagoevgrad, is a member of.

ECAD was founded in 1994 by cities that wanted stronger actions on illicit drugs and reject legalization of drugs. Since then, our cities have worked very hard to address the size of their drug problems through concerted actions on drugs by investing in prevention, treatment and control.

Use of illicit drugs is a preventable malady and a risk factor for a wide range of negative outcomes including mental and other illness, school dropout and academic failure, road accidents, unemployment, low life satisfaction and relationship problems. Drug use and other social problems are intertwined so that drugs use is associated with and commonly exacerbates other problems.

ECAD is a warm supporter of the UN drug conventions which restricts the use of drugs to medical and scientific purposes only. The success of the conventions is evident when comparing use of illicit drugs, which amounts to roughly 5 percent annual prevalence, to levels of use of licit drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, which are up to ten times higher.

Those seeking to replicate policies of commercialization and legalization of mind altering substances like those already in place for alcohol and tobacco, have a hard time accounting for the health burden to our societies and cities from those legal drug industries.

There is no inherent conflict between the international drug control and human rights. Control over drugs does not equate mass incarceration of drug users. It is important to maintain societal norms of non-drug use supported by enforcement of the law while ensuring that those with an addiction problem are directed towards treatment to prevent them from relapsing in crime and addiction. This is not a choice between using either the law or the health care but a choice to utilize both whenever appropriate.

It is important to recognize that the trafficking and retail sales of illicit drugs constitute an important source of revenue for organized crime. Drug demand reduction is therefore imperative to break the power of the mafias by undermining a vital source of income to them. To seriously combat organized crime each of us must come together and do our part. We must never give up on policing and prosecuting criminals and their organizations but we must also be tough and address the vulnerabilities in our communities that legitimize crime and fuels demand for drugs. ECAD is working hard to do the latter and we are very encouraging to those who do the former.

We are very glad to have the city of Blagoevgrad on board for this important work and we are very proud over the work being done by Giovanne Falcone and his successors, in Italy, in Bulgaria and across Europe.

Thank you.

Significant reductions in drug consumption levels are possible through concerted action. That is the message given by the Mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur B Eggertsson, the director of Icelandic Centre for Social Research, Jon Sigfusson and the secretary general of ECAD, Erik Leijonmarck who met in ECAD city of Bucharest last week to celebrate 10 years anniversary of the prevention program Youth in Europe.

Read more: Reykjavik Mayor: Prevention works!
Jon Sigfusson director YiE, Dagur B Eggertsson Mayor of Reykjavik, Georgiana Pogonaru Honorary Counsul, Ben Oni Ardelan Senator, Cosmina Simiean Nicolescu, Bucharest Municipality

"Back in 1998 the situation of adolescent substance use on Iceland was terrible. Substance use among adolescent was the highest in Europe based on ESPAD data. We were losing the kids and their families. The city of Reykjavik and the Icelandic government felt they needed to do something. Now substance use is the lowest in Europe” says the director of Icelandic Center for Research and Analysis and Youth in Europe, Jon Sigfusson

Read more: Reykjavik Mayor: Prevention works!

How has that come about?

It has been a systematic approach and commitment to prevention by the whole society. But it’s not just about the drugs it is about healing the society. Change the society and the behavior of children will follow. We needed to strengthen the preventive factors for children and eliminate the risk factors. It is as hard, yet simple as that.

What did you do?

Dagur B Eggertsson, mayor of Reykjavik explains that in 1994 the city entered into ECAD and Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir entered as the first woman-mayor of Reyjavik. Reykjavik launched a five year drug prevention programme Drug free Iceland 1997-2002 in cooperation with the Icelandic Government and ECAD. Up till that point nothing they did in prevention was really working. In 2003 the positive changes were already evident and we decided to keep on. Since then, the numbers just keep on dropping.

The methodology expands to European Countries

In 2005 the work on Iceland was decided to be expanded to other European countries. The methodology is now being transferred to other cities in Europe and is reducing levels of substance use across the European continent. We are already seeing changes in European cities which have adopted the methodology, Jon Sigfusson says. Jon emphasizes that he wants others to steal his work and continue to work systematically to reduce levels of substance use and improve overall health of youngsters in Europe.

Dr Adrian Sarbu from the city of Bucharest explains that Bucharest is utilizing the data from Youth in Europe not only to reduce substance use levels but also to bring down levels of suicides in the city.

Read more: Reykjavik Mayor: Prevention works!

Presentation by Dagur Eggertsson


ECAD's activities from year to year culminate in the annual ECAD Mayors Conference, hosted by a distinct ECAD member city every summer. Councillors and other politicians and policymakers convene with academics and civil society organizations to participate in seminars and study visits, discussing the latest developments in drug prevention efforts throughout Europe.

27th Mayors Conference - Gothenburg and online 2022

The 27th Mayors' Conference and 8th World Forum took place in Gothenburg and online 13-14th June 2022.

The World Forum and Mayor’s Conference is a meeting place for people from all continents who are working to prevent drug abuse, ensure evidence-based and gender-sensitive practices, increase access to treatment, and to promote recovery and reintegration services. This global forum is one of its kind where NGOs, self-help groups, treatment centres, scholars, local, regional, and national authorities, politicians and other decision-makers, and others from around the world will meet to share evidence and best practice experiences. This year’s World Forum will include three main tracks: Prevention, Treatment/Recovery, and Advocacy, which will stretch over 1,5 days followed by the WFAD Congress and ECAD Mayors plenary session. 

We are proud to announce that the Forum was inaugurated by UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly and will be joined by experts from around the world.

Read more on the website: and access the full report here
Register to

26th Mayors Conference - Cork 2019



and 6th World Forum Against Drugs

Register to

Conference materials

Kevin Sabet, PhD, Director, Drug Policy Institute, University of Florida, President, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), USA
Speech at the WFAD /ECAD 25th Mayors Conference, Gothenburg, May 15, 2018 (Video 5min.)

Supply reduction in Peril?  A lot of the worlds`s drug supply emanates from a war-torn Columbia.
Dr. Michael Jonsson, FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency

Text to the slides (PDF)
In Columbia, a peace deal has been struck, which gives hope for a closure of insurgency and violence. (PDF)

Thomas Pietschmann, Dr, Drug Research Section, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs
The International drug control system, global/regional and national drug patterns and trends, and supply reduction efforts at the international level (PDF)


Register to
Photo: Götaplatsen @ Klas Eriksson

Annual Mayors` Conference and the 6th World Forum Against Drugs will take off on May 14-15 in Gothenburg this year.
This joint event will address a growing interest to the effective prevention practices, full recovery and alternatives to incarceration and to life-long dependency on drug treatment.
The conference will create a room for elaborating a practical guide to how a recovery city will look like, this will be grounded on the recent evidence-based research.
Sheffield Hallam University (UK), Ghent University (Belgium) and the City of Gothenburg have already started working on this guide in practice.

In order to find out more and to register please visit a joint webpage here.

 WFAD logo jpg  Logo Gothenburg


Kaunas logotypeRegister to

ECAD 24th Mayors` Conference materials

On June 12-13, the city of Kaunas hosted ECAD 24th Annual Mayors`s Conference 2017

Safe Cities Without Drugs. Preventing, Protecting, Policing

Key-note speakers:

David W. Spencer, Field intelligence Manager, Drug Enforcement Agency, European Region

Supply reduction and dismantling drug trafficking organizations: In what ways can local communities benefit (PDF)

Kim Nilvall, Swedish National Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence section, Organized crime

Police work in socially disadvantaged areas in Sweden: Impact of drugs on urban crime (PDF)

 Torsten Stodiek, Deputy Head, Strategic Police Matters Unit, Community Policing Advisor, Transnational Threats Department, OSCE

Preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism and radicalisation that lead to terrorism:

A community and intelligence led policing approach (PDF)

Jon Sigfusson, Director for Icelandic Centre of Social Research and Analysis, Reykjavik University, ICSRA

Youth in Europe and Planet Youth (PDF)

Laimonas Vasiliauskas, Senior Specialist, Serious and Organized Crime Department, EUROPOL

European Illicit Drug Market (PDF)

 Antonio Boscini, Health Director, San Patrignano Community, Rimini, Italy

Recovery and social reinsertion: San Patrignano Community model extended (PDF)

a wall of participants



 Conference Booking Form

@ Rokas Tenys, the Kaunas Castle

Kaunas Castle
Picture: @Rokas Tenys

Warm welcome to Kaunas, Lithuania!

Archives of ECAD's mailed newsletters from 2003 until 2013. To subscribe to ECAD's new email-based newsletter, click here.
Official ECAD mission statements in six different European languages.
The ECAD Resolution, crafted at a conference to increase cooperation between cities, provides inspiration and hope for areas with particularly difficult drug problems. The signatories to the resolution will affirm their decision to fight against the spread of drugs.