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Bannon, Fiona (2015) EMCDDA update. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 55, Autumn 2015, p. 29.

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Drugs policy and the city in Europe

On 25 June 2015, ahead of International Day Against Drug Abuse And Illicit Trafficking (26 June), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published Drugs policy and the city in Europe.1 The paper looks at drugs in cities across Europe, revealing how some cities are developing drug strategies of their own.


The European Union is one of the most urbanised areas in the world and its cities are set to become more densely populated. Currently 73 % of the EU’s population resides in cities and this is projected to increase to 82% (or 30 million new residents) by 2050. The report identifies 10 European capitals with a dedicated drugs strategy: Berlin, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna and Warsaw. The report focuses on four topics: urban spaces and drug use; businesses and recreational drug use; city-level drug policies; and coordinating and funding city-level policies.


Urban spaces and drug use

Eight capital cities report current ‘open drug scenes’, which can vary from the ‘concentrated’ (up to hundreds of users per day) to the ‘dispersed’ (multiple smaller gatherings). Despite these variations, common features exist, namely: the presence of polydrug use, health issues linked to injecting, and problems relating to congregations of users. The report explores some of the responses currently used, including needle- and syringe-exchange programmes, drop-in centres, drug consumption rooms, and measures to reduce drug-related litter (e.g. sharp bins, needle-exchange machines).


Businesses and recreational drug use

Cities contain a high density of premises where psychoactive substances are sold and consumed. Frequently, specific areas exist where many of these businesses are clustered together. This can give rise to zones where drug use and intoxication are tolerated, if not accepted. Given the diversity of the drug problems found in such areas, a spectrum of responses is being implemented. These range from prevention and harm-reduction initiatives in recreational settings (e.g. information campaigns, pill-testing) to legislative measures targeting new psychoactive substances and street-based outlets for their sale.


City-level drug policies

The report defines city-level policies as ‘measures taken by local policy actors to address all or some aspects of drug problems in a specific urban location’. It finds that city-level drug strategies frequently mirror the focus of national and regional level documents. Other cities, however, adopt a more thematic approach, addressing specific issues such as open drug scenes (Copenhagen, Oslo), anti-social behaviour (Dublin) and crack cocaine (London and Paris).


Coordinating and funding city-level policies

Generally, city authorities are formally responsible for the coordination of city-level drug policy, in some cases, this being established by law (Helsinki, Madrid, Warsaw). Some cities have dedicated drug policy units, while others address drug issues via generic policy units. Officially appointed ‘city drug coordinators’ exist in some capitals. Where no formal coordination structures exist at city level, national-, regional- or local-level structures are responsible for strategy implementation (Ankara, Bratislava, Bucharest, and Dublin).

1 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2015) Drugs policy and the city in Europe. EMCDDA Papers. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.


Irish parliamentarians visit EMCDDA

A delegation of members of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality of the Oireachtas visited the EMCDDA on 4 and 5 June 2015. The delegation attended the launch of the European Drug Report 2015 (see separate report on this publication elsewhere in this issue), after which they met EMCDDA experts regarding the Portuguese drug law in the context of drug legislation in the EU member states. They also met the EMCDDA Director.


Following the visit to the EMCDDA, the delegation held meetings with Dr João Goulão, a representative of the Commission for Addiction Dissuasion (CDT) in Portugal, members of the Committee on Health of the Portuguese Parliament, and the National Deputy Director of the Polícia Judiciária from Portugal. They also visited the Taipas treatment centre in Lisbon.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 55, Autumn 2015
October 2015
Page Range
p. 29
Health Research Board
Issue 55, Autumn 2015

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