THE ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
Happy New Year everyone!
Another year in the war on people who use drugs is behind us! Although it is far from over, we have seen development in the right direction for some time now and 2017 was no exception to that trend. Unjust and ineffective drug policies are still the rule though, rather than the exception. Indeed, there is more than enough conversations to be had, information to be exchanged, letters to be written, marches to be walked and songs to be sang.
The time is now.
As it has always been. Because the future that we want can only start today.
ENCOD’s vision states just and effective drug policies. A just drug policy could mean among other things, that when no harm is done to others, then no crime is committed.
An effective drug policy could mean among other things, that the objectives of the policy should be obtained. The objectives of drug policy should be (and are stated to be in some countries) to reduce harmful situations as much as possible and to manage the risks inherent to using mind altering substances.
In the future that we are working towards we strive to see all substances legally regulated. We know this improves the safety and security of society, community and all individuals involved. The society that legally regulates mind altering substances would still protect it’s young and their biologically undeveloped minds from influences that can hamper the flowering of a child’s consciousness. In our current society, work on preventing usage is done for the legally regulated substance alcohol. It’s not inconceivable that in our future society this work preventing usage by underage persons is also applied to the other legally regulated substances.
Another feature of the society that we’re looking for, is considerable attention to information sharing, knowledge finding and methodology application, to increase the intention of safe and responsible use and to reduce the chance of harming oneself or others. Thát future society, does not seek to control the choices of it’s adults, but to inform those choices. Indeed, this is also part of our current society when it concerns alcohol.
In working towards our future society, various groups have taken it upon themselves to already start with the work that prevents use for minors and that informs use for adults. By doing so, they develop expertise and experience that would be applicable just as well, when the substances currently illegal would be legally regulated. In other words: these groups are building the social infrastructure that will be an important part of our society, once we flip the switch towards legal regulation of mind altering substances.
These groups have organised themselves in an European network called NEWNet. So to connect one European network to another, it seemed a good idea to have NEWNet introduce itself shortly in the form of this current bulletin:
The Nightlife Empowerment & Well-being Network (NEWNet) is a European network of community-based NGOs acting in the fields of health promotion and nightlife, of nightlife professionals, volunteers, local and regional authorities and agencies, treatment professionals and scientific researchers. The NEWNet was founded in August 2013, the association is based in France. Last year NEWNet has 21 members, issued from 16 countries.
The objectives of NEWNet are: to promote safer nightlife policies and practices based on integrated partnerships including all the nightlife stakeholders: nightlife professionals, partygoers and peers, harm reduction NGOs, public institutions and the scientific community.
These goals are achieved through the:
- Exchange and acquiring information, know-how and tools in order to improve our interventions and propose responses to the new challenges in the fields of harm reduction and health promotion among party and club culture;
- Support the emergence of local nightlife projects in Europe;
- Take part and influence the European nightlife policies (advocacy, best practice example, conferences).
Our Shared Aims are:
- Promoting individual choice and party-related risks awareness.
- Enabling people to manage their personal pleasure and related risks in a proper, well-informed way which fits into their life’s concepts.
- Enabling people to find their own decision and give them the necessary support to follow their way.
- Promoting community health by developing empowerment of drug users, partygoers and nightlife professionals to participate in drug policies and practices including active participation in integrated partnerships at local level.
- Improving safer recreational settings through the participation of nightlife professionals.
- Taking an active role within the scientific community: contributing to the needs assessment in terms of research and to the dissemination of scientific data.
- Contributing to the cultural development of the party scenes.
NEW Net members are offering different types of strategies to contact with people who use drugs. One of these actions is providing a Drug Checking service. The term “Drug Checking” as used here refers to an integrated service that basically enables individual drug users to have their synthetic drugs (e.g., cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, or LSD) chemically analyzed as well as receiving advice, and, if necessary, counselling.
In Europe 13 different organizations are offering Drug Checking services:
4motion from Luxemburg
Ailaket!! from Spain
BAONPS from Italy
Check!n from Portugal
Checkit! from Austria
DrogArt from Slovenia
Legal High Inhalts Stoffe.de from Germany
Modus Vivendi from Belgium
Saferparty from Switzerland
The Loop from United Kingdom
Since 2011, all these organizations are working together in a network of European fieldwork Drug Checking services called The Trans-European Drug Information project (TEDI). All the organizations included in this network share their expertise and data within a European monitoring and information system. The aim of this monitoring and information system is to help to optimize public health, prevention and harm reduction intervention strategies/programs. It serves as an early warning system and a tool for monitoring the evolution of drug markets in Europe. TEDI also focuses its efforts on reporting the emergence of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in recreational settings and monitoring their evolution throughout Europe. Over the last few years, at least one new NPS on the market was being reported every week. Besides this market’s dynamic, TEDI has detected a disturbing phenomenon that needs to be confronted by Drug Checking services – the inclusion of NPS as adulterants in the most commonly consumed illicit drugs including ecstasy, amphetamine, LSD and ketamine. This trend seems to be spreading among all of the countries currently being monitored by TEDI. These trends should thus be followed closely and appropriately addressed by providing information and harm reduction messages to users itself.
This concludes NEWNet’s introduction. Since the writing of this article, more organisations have joined the network. Please check them out here. The adulteration of commonly consumed substances with NPS seems to be an easily avoided problem. In a legally regulated market, substances would be quality tested, solving this issue at the source. Until that time, the organisations of NEWNet work to protect people against unforeseen consequences of the unregulated, irregular markets. ENCOD continues its mission in 2018 as well. As it seems the best solution to prevent harm and manage risks is an approach to substance policy that is not based in fear, insecurity, ineffectiveness and injustice but in awareness, information, safety and security for everyone involved.