Home > Publication of EU Drugs Action Plan 2021–2023.

Dillon, Lucy (2022) Publication of EU Drugs Action Plan 2021–2023. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 80, Winter 2022, pp. 5-6.

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On 21 July 2021, the Council of the European Union (EU) (Foreign Affairs) approved the EU Drugs Action Plan 2021–2025, prepared under the Portuguese presidency of the EU.1 The Action Plan is the mechanism through which the EU will implement the EU Drugs Strategy 2021–2025, which was approved by the Council of Europe in December 2020, and the content of which was discussed in a previous issue of Drugnet.2,3

Action Plan structure

The Action Plan is grounded in the strategy and therefore pursues the same aims and objectives; adopts the same approach; and is based on the same principles, values, and legal provisions.

The Strategy aims to protect and improve the well-being of society and of the individual, to protect and promote public health, to offer a high level of security and well-being for the general public and to increase health literacy. The Strategy takes an evidence-based, integrated, balanced and multidisciplinary approach to the drugs phenomenon at national, EU and international level. It also incorporates a gender equality and health equity perspective. (p. 3)1

The 85 actions contained in the plan are described as ‘evidence-based, scientifically sound, realistic, time-bound and measurable with a clear EU relevance and added value’ (p. 3).1 They are set out under the strategy’s three policy areas (drug supply reduction: enhancing security; drug demand reduction: prevention, treatment, and care services; and addressing drug-related harm) and three cross-cutting themes (international cooperation; research, innovation, and foresight; and coordination, governance, and implementation). The plan sets out a timetable for each action’s delivery and the stakeholders involved in their implementation. These include the Council of the EU; EU member states; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA); Europol; and the European Medicines Agency, to name but a few.

A set of indicators based on existing reporting mechanisms is identified, which will facilitate ‘the measurement of the overall effectiveness of the Action Plan’ (p. 3).1 The implementation of the strategy and Action Plan will be subject to an external evaluation, the findings of which will be published in March 2025 and used to inform the next cycle of strategy development.

Changing landscape

As well as supporting an increased focus on the consequences of drug use and its related harms, the 2021–2025 Strategy and Action Plan maintain a focus on addressing both supply and demand reduction activities. They also reflect how the drug landscape has evolved since the previous strategy was published in 2012.4 For example, they take account of changing drug markets, increased drug-related violence, and environmental crime related to illicit drug production and trafficking. Below is a selection of actions (and their priority areas) with relevance to Ireland’s national drugs strategy,5 which illustrates some of the range of issues covered under the plan.

Strategic priorities and actions

Drug supply reduction: enhancing security

Priority area: Prevent drug-related crime with particular focus on the need to counter violence, limit corruption, and address the exploitation of vulnerable groups by addressing the underlying factors that lead to their involvement in illicit drug markets.

Action 9 (ii)(iii): Encourage comprehensive evidence-based strategies in neighbourhoods that experience high levels of drug availability and drug-related crime and support measures that create a more protective environment for communities affected by the consumption and sale of drugs or drug-related crime, in accordance with internationally recognised quality standards (UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention).6

Drug demand reduction: prevention, treatment, and care services

Priority area: Disseminate the latest scientific evidence on prevention to decision-makers and practitioners and provide them with training.

Action 30: Promote and allocate sufficient funding for education, training, and continuous professional development for decision-makers, opinion leaders, and professionals on the latest scientific evidence on drug use and addiction prevention, including new consumption patterns, also using online tools, and in particular promote the implementation of the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS), the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention, and the European Prevention Curriculum (EUPC) training courses.

Priority area: Reduce stigma.

Action 39: Develop and provide training for decision-makers, employers, and professionals about stigma linked to drug use, drug-use disorders, and mental health, and consider the impact that this stigma may have had on patients when delivering care. This should be done with the involvement of people who have experienced drug-related stigma.

Addressing drug-related harm

Priority area: Promote civil society participation and ensure sustainable funding.

Action 48: Promote and encourage the active and meaningful participation and involvement of civil society, including non-governmental organisations, young people, people who use drugs, clients of drug-related services, the scientific community, and other experts in the development, implementation, and evaluation of drug policies, and provide an appropriate level of resources for all drug services and for the involvement of civil society.

Priority area: Provide alternatives to coercive sanctions.

Action 49 (i): Scale up the availability, effective implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of measures provided as alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug-using offenders and for people in pretrial detention, arrested, charged with or convicted of drug-related offences, or people found in possession of drugs for personal use, such as (suspension of sentence with) treatment, rehabilitation and recovery, and social reintegration, in accordance with national legislation.

Concluding comment

The EU’s Action Plan reflects the wide range of challenges facing the EU and its member states. There is a focus on improving alignment between member states’ national strategies and those of the EU. There is currently close alignment between Ireland’s national drugs strategy and that of the EU, which is set to continue with the forthcoming strategic priorities and action plan to be published by Government.

1  Council of the European Union (2021) EU drugs action plan 2021–2025. Brussels: Council of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/34446/

2  Council of the European Union (2020) EU drugs strategy 2021–2025. Brussels: Council of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33750/

3  Dillon L (2021) Publication of EU Drugs Strategy 2021–2025. Drugnet Ireland, 77 (Spring): 1–7.  https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/34279/

4  Council of the European Union (2012) EU drugs strategy (2013–2020). Brussels: Council of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19034/

5  Department of Health (2017) Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017–2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

6  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)/World Health Organization (WHO) (2018) International standards on drug use prevention. 2nd updated edn. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30048/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 80, Winter 2022
March 2022
Page Range
pp. 5-6
Health Research Board
Issue 80, Winter 2022

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