Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleSupplementary written evidence submitted by Europe Against Drugs (DP121a)

We would like to extend our thanks to you for providing us with the opportunity to attend the Home Affairs Conference on Drug Policy, which was held this Monday (10 September 2012).

During the event, you expressed that we were welcome to submit further “urgent facts” to the inquiry before the end of this week. I would like to take the opportunity to do so, as I felt that you were missing some important facts and commentary.

In regard to the Portuguese example provided on Monday, I am concerned that the committee may not be aware of the data sets which show the extent to which youth drug use has increased in Portugal over the last decade. During the meeting on Monday, you were presented with the European School Survey Data up until 2007, however data is now available until 2011, which shows that Portuguese drug rates amongst young people continues to rise, against a backdrop of decreasing drug use in most other European countries. In the past, Portugal had much lower drug use rates amongst its’ young people than was average across Europe but now Portugal has not only caught up with the European average but in some cases, even exceeds it.

In particular, lifetime prevalence of any illegal drug among 15–16 year olds in Portugal increased from 8% in 1995 up to 19% in 2011 and lifetime prevalence of cannabis use increased from 7% to 16% across the same timeframe. The pattern since 2007 is particularly interesting as whilst the European average rate has decreased, Portugal’s rate has continued to increase (see attached document on Portuguese youth drug rates).1

The other point made about Portugal was that the major success of its’ investment in drug treatment and drug strategy was the reduction it had seen in HIV cases. This is of course true but it is also true that the overall incidence of HIV in the EU/EEA has been declining steadily since the early 2000’s, although you may be aware that there are specific countries like Greece and Romania where localised outbreaks have occurred. So, whilst the reduction in new HIV cases in Portugal is definitely something to be celebrated, it is still worth noticing that new HIV cases in Portugal (116 in 2010) is still considerably higher than in Sweden (where there were 25 new cases in 2010), which has a similar population level.

In regard to Colombia and its’ supply reduction efforts, I thought it would be interesting for the committee to reflect on the great successes made in Thailand and Peru in the area of drug supply reduction. For example, Thailand, once a major producer of opium, has virtually eliminated its’ opium cultivation, not through law enforcement but through intense investment in rural poverty, agriculture and sustainable alternative development. Likewise in Peru, alternative development programmes have so far aided over 450,000 people, who were once dictates of drug trafficking.

The conference on Monday was opened by RT Hon Keith Vaz MP, who highlighted the need for “co-responsibility” to deal with the world’s drug problem. This was very much a main theme from the member state statements at this year’s United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. However, the large majority of member states did not mean “co-responsibility” in terms of regulating the illicit market; rather they meant that each country needs to do more in both addressing and investing in the root problems which create drug production and consumption in the first place.

We would therefore like to end our contribution to the UK Home Affairs Committee Inquiry on Drugs by calling on you to specifically address and invest in effective drug demand reduction measures across the UK, whilst investing in sustainable alternative development approaches in drug producing countries as part of your international aid programmes.

Should you wish to seek any additional clarification or information, we are at your disposal.

Fay Watson,
Secretary Genera
EURAD

September 2012

References

ESPAD (2012) The 2011 Report http://www.espad.org/en/Reports--Documents/ESPAD-Reports/

EMCDDA (2011). Joint EMCDDA and ECDC rapid risk assessment: HIV in injecting drug users in the EU/EEA, following a reported increase of cases in Greece and Romania

EMCDDA Country Overview: Situation Summary: Portugal. Available here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/country-overviews/pt

EMCDDA Country Overview: Situation Summary: Sweden. Available here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/country-overviews/se

United Nations. Alternative Development. http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/alt-development_rural-development.pdf

You may wish to contact the Mae Fah Luang Foundation who are one of the largest alternative development programmes in Thailand and who attended the 2012 United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in relation to a recommendation on alternative development. www.maefahluang.org or www.doitung.org . The Chief Development Officer is M.L. Dispanadda Diskul (who speaks very good English) (dispanadda@doitung.org/tel: +6622527114 Ext 191).

Macroconsult (2012) Drug Trafficking: The Threat To Peru’s Sustainable Growth: Studies on coca, cocaine, security and development. http://www.canzarperu2012.com/en/drug.html

1 Not printed.

Prepared 8th December 2012