Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, today welcomed approval by the European Council of the new EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025.
The strategy sets out the political framework and priorities for EU drug policy in the period 2021-2025. It reaffirms the commitment of EU Member States to an evidence-based, comprehensive and balanced approach to drugs, with the preservation of human rights at its core.
Minister Feighan said:
“I welcome the approval of the new EU Drugs Strategy. The drug phenomenon affects communities across Europe in different ways, from health, family and social relations, to violence and money laundering. These are problems that no Member State can tackle alone. The EU drugs strategy provides the tools to address these problems collectively.
"The strategy includes a new, dedicated chapter on addressing drug related harms, so as to prevent or reduce the health and social risks for drug users. This includes measures to reduce the incidence of drug-related infectious diseases, to prevent overdoses and drug-related deaths and to provide alternatives to coercive sanctions.”
Minister Feighan commented:
“I welcome the new focus on the health needs of people who use drugs in the EU strategy, which mirrors the health-led approach in our national strategy, Reducing Harming, Supporting Recovery. Ireland strongly advocated for the inclusion of harm reduction in the strategy, along with traditional policies to reduce the supply and the demand for drugs.”
Minister Feighan highlighted the emphasis in the strategy on alternatives to coercive sanctions for people who use drugs.
“Ireland is developing the health diversion programme as an alternative to criminal sanctions, that treats drug use as first and foremost as a public health issue. I welcome the opportunity to share outcomes and identify best practice on alternatives to coercive sanctions with other Member States.
“The EU Drugs Strategy commits to protect and support people who use drugs from negative health outcomes. This includes the use innovative harm-reduction measures to reach high-risk populations, such as supervised drug consumption facilities. It will also strengthen effective measures to prevent drug overdoses and other related deaths.”
Minister Feighan added:
“COVID-19 has drawn attention to the health inequalities experienced by people who use drugs. It is important that we continue to develop harm-reduction measures to protect vulnerable groups, especially those who have opioid dependence, are homeless or are ex-prisoners. Ireland strongly endorses the proposal that the reduction in overdose deaths should be a key indicator for measuring progress in implementing the EU strategy.
“The next step will be to develop an EU action plan, which will set out concrete measures to achieve the priorities in the EU Drugs Strategy.”
“The EU Drugs Strategy and the forthcoming action plan are very timely as it will inform the mid-term review of actions in the national drugs strategy. Ireland cannot address the drugs issue in isolation from our European colleagues. I want to ensure that there is a synergy between the EU and national strategies and to avail of the opportunities provided in the EU strategy to share learning and good practice between Member States.”
The EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025 has eight strategic priorities structured around three policy themes:
- Drug supply reduction: Enhancing Security
- Drug demand reduction: prevention, treatment and care services
- Addressing drug-related harm
Under drug supply reduction/enhanced security, the strategy targets all aspects of the illicit drug market, and includes the prevention of, dissuasion from and disruption of drug related crime, in particular organised crime, through judicial and law enforcement cooperation, intelligence, interdiction, confiscation of criminal assets, investigations and border management.
The drug demand reduction theme consists of a range of mutual reinforcing measures including prevention, early detection and intervention, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration and recovery.
Addressing drug related harm includes measures and policies to prevent or reduce the possible health and social risks and harm for users, for society and in prison settings. It covers aspects such as reducing the prevalence and incidence of drug-related infectious diseases, preventing overdoses and drug-related deaths and providing alternatives to coercive sanctions.
The strategy also identifies three cross-cutting priorities:
international cooperation: enhancing the role of the EU as a global broker for a people-centred and human rights-oriented drug policy
research, innovation and foresight: providing the EU and Member States with the necessary comprehensive research and foresight capacities to address drug challenges
coordination, governance and implementation: ensuring optimal implementation of the strategy, including the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Europol, and civil society.
Read the EU Drug Strategy here
Source: The Department of Health