Portugal’s Approach to Drug Policy – what works and what does not?

From Movendi’s website

The Swedish Drug Policy Centre (NPC) has published a new report Decriminalisation of Drugs: What can we learn from Portugal?, written by Pierre Andersson, about Portugal’s approach to drug policy and the lessons that can be learned from the country’s decriminalization of drugs.

In drug policy debates reference is often made to Portugal as an example of a country with a successful approach to drug policy. Often, the country’s good results in reducing the drug problem are attributed to the decriminalisation policy instituted in 2001. But knowledge and understanding of the exact policy and its results is not always accurate and well-informed. Therefore, Pierre Andersson has conducted a series of interviews on the ground in Lisbon and studied the reports on Portugal’s drugs policy published in scientific journals in recent years.

The report makes it clear that Portugal’s reforms in 2001 were more far-reaching than the abolition of penalties for using and possessing small quantities of drugs. Above all, they included major efforts to improve services for rapid and effective treatment, and good coordination between various healthcare interventions. This is likely to have contributed to the development that fewer people developed drug dependency, and, as a result, to a reduction in the number of drug-related deaths.

But, the report also shows that the drug-related death rate fell after the reform, when major efforts were made to expand healthcare, only to then increase again to almost the same level as before decriminalisation.

The Swedish drug policy debate often compares the figures for drug-related deaths between Portugal and Sweden. As the new report shows, these comparisons are flawed because the measurement methods differ from between countries. For example, over 75% of all deaths in Sweden that screened positive for drugs are ultimately classified as “drug-related” according to the definition by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

But the corresponding figure in Portugal is below 5%. The report also shows that Sweden undertakes twice as many post-mortem examinations and three times as many forensic analyses as Portugal. Comparisons between the figures make little sense when the methods differ as much as they do.

Concerning drug consumption trends in Portugal, the new report shows that cannabis use has increased among schoolchildren and is now at a higher level than that of the corresponding age group in Sweden.

Countries still have a lot to learn from Portugal’s drug policy, especially with regard to the short waiting time for treatment and the coordination between the various healthcare services. For example, Portugal’s Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse (CDT), which people charged with possession or use have to appear before, is quick to make referrals to addiction specialists. The quick and effective response and follow-up increase in all likelihood people’s chances of overcoming – or avoiding – drug use disorders and addiction.

The report also highlights the risk of overlooking some really good lessons from both Portugal and other countries, overshadowed by the framing that decriminalisation in itself is the solution to all drug problems.

The purpose of the report is therefore to contribute to a focused and informed drug policy debate taking into view the initiatives that hold substantial potential to reduce and prevent harm, provide adequate services to all who need it and help prevent drug use and harm among children and youth.

The analysis of Portugal’s drug policy is complemented with a broader overview of ten more European countries which have decriminalised drugs. You can read the additional report “Decriminalization in Europehere>>>.

Comparison of the developments following decriminalisation in these eleven European countries shows that drug-related deaths increased in some countries and decreased in others. It therefore does not seem to be decriminalisation in itself that is the decisive factor in the developments.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

Drug Decriminalisation: Progress or Political Red Herring?

From the INPUD website

Over the past decade there have been increasing claims that the world is moving towards a critical turning point in international drug policy, based on a growing recognition that governments must consider alternative approaches to drug policy which include decriminalisation. While this shift has been hailed as a sign of progress by many, INPUD believes there are still important and overlooked questions regarding the extent to which the needs and rights of people who use drugs are being prioritised in countries that have decriminalised drug use. In 2018, INPUD published a ground-breaking analysis of the Portuguese decriminalisation model – Is Decriminalisation Enough? Drug User Community Voices from Portugal – which for the first time assessed the impact of decriminalisation of Portugal from the perspectives of people who use drugs. The report noted how “interactions with the state and the police, and issues of violence, social exclusion, stigmatisation, and discrimination, are often entirely omitted from discussion and analysis of decriminalisation”.

INPUD is excited to present Drug Decriminalisation: Progress or Political Red Herring? This report, like our previous report on Portugal, is intended to open up the debate on decriminalisation and make clear the expectations people who use drugs have for future action on drug policy reform. Most importantly, it includes a call for full decriminalisation without sanctions as the new baseline for measuring progress on decriminalisation in the future.

Decriminalisation is often discussed as if there is only one model, leading to a view that decriminalisation anywhere equals progress. However, there are many different models of decriminalisation in operation, all with different impacts. This report was published because we believe current reforms have not gone far enough. This situation means that in the overwhelming majority of countries, people who use drugs continue to be criminalised, punished, and stigmatised despite decriminalisation. Furthermore, no existing reviews of decriminalisation models have specifically included the perspective of people who use drugs in their analysis, a glaring oversight which reflects the historical exclusion of the voices of people who use drugs within policy discussions.

INPUD believes it is time to disrupt the misconception that decriminalisation efforts unquestionably represent progress when they have been developed with little or no consultation with people who use drugs. This report amplifies the voices of people who use drugs through a series of interviews conducted with members of the community and their representatives in countries that have implemented various approaches to decriminalisation. Our hope is that this report can support peer-led advocacy efforts towards more inclusive, progressive, participatory and transparent drug policies which fully recognise the human dignity of all people who use drugs.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy

From the IDPC press release

Today, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) released a new report Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy – An evaluation of UNGASS implementation revealing the widening chasm between UN commitments on health and human rights, and the devastation brought about by punitive drug policies on the ground.

As the annual meeting of the UN CND opens with a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the legal foundation of the international drug control regime, IDPC’s report shows that there is little cause for celebration. Using wide-ranging data from UN, academic and civil society sources, the report illustrates the horrific human toll of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 585,000 preventable drug use related deaths were recorded in 2017, the highest figure on record.
  • A staggering 2.5 million people worldwide are in prison for a drug offence, of which at least 475,000 are incarcerated for personal drug use only. Hundreds of thousands more are detained against their will in forced ‘treatment’.
  • From ‘stop and search’ and mass incarceration to the death penalty, drug law enforcement disproportionately targets women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other marginalised communities, fuelling poverty and inequality.
  • Globally, only 1 in 8 people living with drug dependence have access to treatment, while the availability of life-saving harm reduction services is severely restricted.
  • Subsistence farmers of crops like cannabis or coca leaf continue to be subject to violent forced eradication campaigns that deprive them and their families of their livelihoods.
  • 5 billion people worldwide live with limited or no access to pain relief and palliative care due to repressive drug laws.

 

April 2021 also marks the 5th anniversary of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, where all countries in the world committed to adopt a public health, rights-based, and development-oriented approach to drug policy. By comparing these commitments with evidence from the ground, the new IDPC report reveals a widening gap between rhetoric and reality.

The 60th anniversary of the global drug regime gives us little cause for celebration’ said Ann Fordham, Executive Director at IDPC. ‘In the past five years, some progress has been made, as countries moved to adopt welcome initiatives on the decriminalisation of people who use drugs, and the legal regulation of cannabis. However, in most parts of the world, governments remain wedded to draconian policies that have had a catastrophic impact on communities, and have resoundingly failed in their stated purpose of eradicating drug markets, or reducing illegal drug use.

Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at IDPC, said: ‘With this report, we wanted to give a voice to those most affected by punitive drug policies. What communities tell us through our research is that they continue to face criminalisation, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, acts of torture and ill-treatment, stigma and discrimination, and are systematically denied access to life-saving health services. We cannot wait for another 60 years to align drug policies with health, human rights and development.

The report is available following this link>>>.

 

EU crime threat assessment

From the Europol webpage

The EU Serious and organised crime threat assessment (SOCTA) 2021 is the outcome of a detailed analysis of the threat of serious and organised crime facing the EU, providing information for practitioners, decision-makers and the wider public. As a threat assessment, the SOCTA is a forward-looking document that assesses shifts in the serious and organised crime landscape.

The SOCTA 2021 sets out current and anticipated developments across the spectrum of serious and organised crime, identifies the key criminal groups and individuals involved in criminal activities across the EU and describes the factors in the wider environment that shape serious and organised crime in the EU.

The SOCTA 2021 provides an overview of the current state of knowledge on criminal networks and their operations based on data provided to Europol by Member States and partners and data collected specifically for the SOCTA 2021. In trying to overcome the established, and limiting, conceptualisation of organised crime groups, this assessment focuses on the roles of criminals within criminal processes and outlines how a better understanding of those roles allows for a more targeted operational approach in the fight against serious and organised crime.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Close to 40% of the criminal networks active in the EU are involved in the trade in illegal drugs.
  • Around 60 % of the criminal networks active in the EU use violence as part of their criminal businesses.
  • The use of corruption and the abuse of legal business structures are key features of serious and organised crime in Europe. Two thirds of criminals use corruption on a regular basis. More than 80 % of the criminal networks use legal business structures.

A whole section of the report is dedicated to The trade in illegal drugs in the EU.

Europol is the EU’s law enforcement agency and it assists the Member States in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism. Established in 2000, Europol is at the heart of the European security architecture and offers a unique range of services. Europol is a support centre for law enforcement operations, a hub for information on criminal activities, and a focal point for law enforcement expertise. Analysis is central to Europol’s activities. To give its partners deeper insights into the crimes they are tackling, Europol produces regular assessments offering comprehensive, forward-looking analyses of crime and terrorism in the EU.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.

 

Bolstering resilience among civil society in the Western Balkans

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI TOC), through their Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe (SEE-Obs) and the Resilience Fund, published Stronger Together: Bolstering resilience among civil society in the Western Balkans report.

As the space for civil society appears to be shrinking in the Western Balkans, this report looks at organized crime and corruption in the region from a civil society perspective. It aims to give an overview of how civil society organizations in the Western Balkans deal with issues related to organized crime and corruption and highlights their main activities and concerns.

The GI-TOC’s experience of engaging with community actors all over the world has shown that individuals and community groups are able to build their individual and collective capacity to respond to and recover from organized crime. This report shows that courageous and committed CSOs across the Western Balkans are doing the same, but would benefit from further support to help strengthen communities’ resilience.

More about the report is available from this video

To read the report, follow this link>>>.


GI TOC shall present the report at the webinar scheduled for Friday 19 Mar 2021 at 11 AM (CET). Interpretation to Albanian, Macedonian, and Bosnian-Montenegrin-Serbian will be available during the event.

This webinar will draw together insights from civil society actors from across the Western Balkans working on organized crime and corruption and identify good practices across the region. During the 90 minute discussion we will also explore how these organizations’ resilience can be strengthened and how CSOs themselves can contribute to strengthening resilience in their communities and across the region.

Registration is required: Click here to register>>>.

 

Let’s talk about drugs

Taken from the IDPC webpage

In June-July 2020 Rights Reporter Foundation, YODA, Re Generation, Young Wave and Center for Humane Policy conducted an assessment of drug education in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia based on the methodology developed by EHRA within the LEt’s Talk about drugs – new MEthods of communication with youth – LET ME project funded by the European Commission (ERASMUS+ program). The goal of the study was to assess existing drug education and its effectiveness, look at what information on drugs is available and how it is perceived by young people, examine the methods and tools used by different actors to talk about drugs with youth, and gather best practices.

The stakeholders interviewed—young people and representatives of harm reduction, prevention, and youth organizations—all agree that existing drug education is ineffective and fails to address the needs and patterns of drug use among young people.

The report will be used to design and create the manual, but also for the advocacy activities related to the promotion of prevention and harm reduction services in the youth work.

The reports are available in English and all national languages following this link>>>.

 

Global State of Harm Reduction 2020

Harm Reduction International, an NGO dedicated to reducing the negative health, social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policy, publishes report that provides an independent analysis of harm reduction in the world. Now in it’s the seventh edition, the Global State of Harm Reduction 2020 is the most comprehensive global mapping of harm reduction responses to drug use, HIV and viral hepatitis.

The 2020 report includes:

  • A chapter which looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns on the provision of harm reduction services worldwide
  • Additional thematic chapters on hepatitis C and tuberculosis
  • Examples of progress in harm reduction from across the world
  • Examples of legal and policy changes which impact harm reduction service provision
  • Foreword by Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Data on the number of people who inject drugs and the number of people in prison for drug use globally

The report can be downloaded and read in full or by chapter following this link>>>.

DPNSEE have prepared a table with information on Epidemiology of HIV and viral hepatitis, and harm reduction response in South East Europe.

The document is available in PDF format following this link>>>.

 

Protecting communities: Responding to the impact of urban drug markets

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and it is predicted that by 2050 roughly two-thirds of all the people on our planet will live in urban areas. This creates opportunities but also challenges like drugs and organized crime.

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of over 500 independent global and regional experts working on human rights, democracy, governance, and development issues where organized crime has become increasingly pertinent.

Their new paper looks at the challenge posed by urban drug markets, particularly the impact on crime, safety, and development. It combines a granular local analysis – based on research as well as interviews with current and former gang members, police, drug users, social workers, court employees and representatives of civil society – with a broader transnational perspective. The study focuses in particular on drug markets in the cities of Cali, Colombia; Chicago, US; Cape Town, South Africa; Karachi, Pakistan; Kingston, Jamaica, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The paper first identifies the problems, types and impact of urban drug markets, and then examines what can be done about them. It looks at what can and is being done at the community level to strengthen local resilience to drugs within a broader context of improving urban management to make cities safe, resilient and sustainable (in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities). The topic of protecting communities takes on added relevance as calls to defund the police open important debates about the limitations of militarized policing and create new opportunities beyond law enforcement to build safer communities.

In short, this study looks at the impact of urban drug markets: why they develop in some cities; how they manifest themselves; how they shape and are shaped by their environment; and what can be done to disrupt them and help nurture resilience in these communities.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.

 

 

 

 

 

 


On 5 October, World Habitat Day, The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) will convene a webinar to discuss contemporary challenges of making cities safer. The webinar will build on GI-TOC’s recent report Protecting Communities: responding to the impact of urban drug market. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on urban drug markets;
  • Militarized policing and its limitations;
  • How violence spreads like an epidemic – and how to interrupt it;
  • Lessons learned from alternative development for urban security;
  • Promoting safer communities in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

To join the webinar, follow this link>>>.

COVID-19 and HIV

Decades of investment in the HIV response have created platforms that are proving useful in battling COVID-19 – just as they were in responding to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in western and central Africa.

The new report by UNAIDS examines how the experience of tackling HIV can help inform and guide effective, efficient, people-centred and sustainable COVID-19 responses.

This report focuses on three key issues: (1) how key lessons learned from the HIV response should inform COVID-19 responses; (2) how the HIV infrastructure is already driving COVID-19 responses and has the potential to catalyse accelerated progress through strategic action; and (3) how the COVID-19 response, informed by the history of responding to HIV, offers a historic opportunity to build a bridge to adaptable results-driven systems for health that work for people.

Key recommendations for the COVID-19 response include:

  • COVID-19 responses should benefit from learning from the HIV experience
  • Communities must be at the centre of COVID-19 responses
  • COVID-19 responses should be guided by human rights principles and practices
  • COVID-19 responses should be gender-sensitive and transformative
  • COVID-19 demands a multi-sectorial, all-of-government, all-of-society response
  • COVID-19 responses should leverage the HIV infrastructure
  • COVID-19 strategic information data must be used to guide action, increase accountability and improve programme performance
  • COVID-19 responses will require strong political leadership
  • We must use COVID-19 to reimagine systems for health

To read and download the report, follow this link>>>.

 

New Psychoactive Substance use in Eastern Europe

From the EHRA webpage

The phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) started decades ago with the growth and production of drugs that replicate the effects of controlled drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and heroin) but avoid legislative control based on different chemical structures.

In recent years, the increasing use of NPS has led to new threats for health of people who use drugs (PWUD) – including overdose, psychotic reactions, high HIV risks due to multiple injections and increased number of sexual contacts. However, in many countries service providers such as harm reduction, drug treatment programs and ambulance services are not prepared to provide PWUD with quality support and counselling to reduce risks of NPS.

In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region the situation with NPS is truly alarming and has become one of the major challenges for the national public health systems, local NGOs, communities PWUD.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in partnership with School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” to generate a more accurate picture of the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to assess harm reduction and law enforcement responses to the emerging issues related to use of NPS. Results from this project will supplement scarce international data on the use of NPS in these countries, present a more accurate picture of their use, and provide information to national civil society organizations (CSOs) for political advocacy.

Irena Molnar, a researcher from the non-governmental organization Re Generation (the only CSO that conducts activities aimed at dealing with NPS in Serbia, DPNSEE member organisation), prepared the report for Serbia, the only country involved in the project from South East Europe. Here is a brief overview of it:

The appearance of NPS in Serbia is not a new phenomenon, but their market share is very small. NPS have been talked about for a whole decade, although scientific research and answers to their appearance in the form of special services aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of users, but also the whole society, have not progressed at all.

Among other things, the report examines in detail the actions taken by the state in the context of this issue and formulates recommendations for improvement. For example, in order to improve the response to problems related to the emergence and use of NPS, greater state involvement is needed in terms of adapting to rapid market changes. This means not only putting substances on the banned list, for which Serbia is very up to date, but also improving the entire system.

To read the reports, follow this link>>>.