Drug Policy

The NordAN Drug Policy Platform was adopted by the assembly of representatives 24th of October 2009 in Helsinki

NordAN Drug Policy Platform

The aim of this platform is to establish a set of common views on drug policy that is shared by all our members and that can serve as a foundation for the positions and activities of NordAN. The platform will not encompass all views and concerns of our members, but concentrate on issues that are either of current interest or of strategic nature.
NordAN’s mission is to employ in a cooperative framework both science and value based approaches in several aspects of drug policy in a pragmatic and piecemeal but principled fashion in the Nordic and Baltic region.

The drug problem

Production, trafficking, distribution and abuse of drugs destroy lives, relationships and communities, undermine sustainable human development and generate crime.
Drugs affect all sectors of society in all countries; in particular, drug use and drug addiction affects the freedom and development of young people.
Drugs are a grave threat to the health and well-being of all mankind, as well as the independence of states, democracy, the stability of nations, economic growth and social cohesion and development, and the dignity and hope of thousands of people and their families.

1. NordAN’s values

Freedom from drug use, drug addiction and other drug related problems is a paramount value that should be sought for all people. The victims of drug use and drug addiction are not only the drug user, but also his/her family and the surrounding community. NordAN is driven by compassion with people suffering from drug use, and solidarity with the families and communities where they live.

2. NordAN’s vision

We want a society that values the importance of life without drugs; that acknowledges the broad harmful impact of drugs on society and individuals and the comprehensive, restrictive policy needed to counter it by supply, demand and harm reduction measures, which gives emphasis to the underlying psychosocial dimension and that sees the importance of civil society in countering the drug problem.

3. International drug policy

NordAN supports the UN conventions on drugs and in particular welcomes the recent Political Declaration and Plan of Action on “International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem”, approved by the UN Member State governments on the 12th March 2009 in Vienna. NordAN notes with satisfaction that UN reports show that reduction in production of drugs is possible; we are however worried about the increase in drug trafficking that fuels the drug related crime and violence in particular in the urban areas in our region.

4. Comprehensive, integrated and balanced drug policy

A sociological and epidemiological understanding of the way drug use spreads in society, and in different subgroups of society, is a crucial fundament for a population based and integrated approach. Drugs spread in society through human contacts and relations. The root causes behind drug demand are cultural, social and psychosocial. Both prevention and treatment programmes must therefore have a social dimension.
The overall aim of drug policy is to stop the spread of drugs and reduce harm done by drugs to individuals and society. The two main components are reducing supply and demand. Supply and demand reduction policies are closely interrelated.
Supply reduction measures must work hand in hand with demand reduction efforts, which is why drug policy must be multi-sectoral and implemented across policy areas. Preventive efforts must be directed towards the general population as well as tailored to vulnerable groups and individuals at risk.
NordAN also emphasizes that social justice and socioeconomic development is essential in complementing health and law enforcement measures both in developed and in developing parts of the world Supply reduction NordAN supports the UN conventions on illicit drugs as the basis for international prohibition of the production, cultivation and the trafficking and sale of illicit drugs. NordAN supports international efforts to eradicate illicit crops and production. Eradication should take place within the context of alternative development, the rule of law and the application of a comprehensive supply reduction strategy. Supply reduction must therefore be viewed in a wider context of economic, social and human development as well as security and stability.

Demand reduction
Prevention and treatment are the two main instruments of demand reduction. Measurable reduction of the use of drugs, numbers of drug addicted persons and of drug-related health and social harm shall be pursued through the development and improvement of an effective and integrated comprehensive knowledge-based demand reduction program aiming to

• prevent people from starting to use drugs;
• prevent experimental use becoming regular use;
• provide early intervention against risky consumption patterns;
• provide treatment;
• provide rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes;
• reduce the drug-related health and social damage.
Harm reduction may have an important role to play in reducing adverse health consequences of drug use such as blood borne diseases and overdoses.
These interventions should stabilise the client in order for treatment to be carried out. Harm reduction and detoxification should take place within a comprehensive and recovery based strategy aiming at a life without drugs. If carried out in isolation its results will be inadequate, producing unintended negative consequences and divert attention and resources away from rehabilitation, recovery and social integration.

5. Demand reduction and society

Drug use and drug addiction may cause or exacerbate social exclusion, weaken social cohesion and impede development. Drug demand reduction efforts should address the social vulnerabilities, such as poverty and marginalization that harm human development and the fabric of society. Demand reduction should facilitate a comprehensive sustainable multi-sectoral strategy to limit experimental drug use and early debut of drug use as well as to promote meaningful activities to strengthen a sense of purpose and self-esteem in individuals.
Civil society organisations have a crucial part to play in demand reduction as their activities are fitted in the social web between people and address directly the cultural, social and psychosocial causes of drug problems.

6. Treatment works

The process of rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration must remain the focus of a comprehensive treatment system. All drug treatment elements should be part of a comprehensive treatment system aiming at rehabilitation, recovery and social integration. Treatment will work when national treatment systems have many levels of entrances and are expanded and readily available. Treatment programs should not aim at keeping drug addicted persons on substitution medicine permanently which could violate the human rights and dignity of the addicted person.
Everyone can recover from drug addiction. We do however not know who will succeed and who will not. A pragmatic, patient and recovery based approach is therefore necessary. Several treatment attempts seem often to be necessary. A relapse during a treatment or recovery period does therefore not necessarily mean a permanent failure.
Social integration is an aim as well as an important part in the process of recovery. Psychosocial problems cannot be overcome in isolation but need social relations and stimuli. Psychosocial support, empowerment and involvement of the families and close relations of drug users and drug addicted persons in treatment are important elements of any treatment in order for them to take back responsibility for their lives and relationships. Self help groups while often underestimated have an important role to play.
The focus of social integration in treatment requires personal autonomy which will necessitate a process away from all addictions.

7. The role of law enforcement

Prohibition and law enforcement are fundamental parts of prevention.
All non-medical handling of narcotic drugs shall be against the law. Legalisation of drugs is no viable path to reduce drug related crime nor the harm done by drugs. The call for legalisation is based on the claim that supply reduction is futile. This is clearly a false premise since we have seen large scale reductions in opium and coca cultivation in the world. A legal market and economy with its new commercial players with a sustained interest in growing profit and sales, would come in addition to a criminal economy, not replace it.
A legal market would increase availability which in turn would increase consumption and harm. Legalisation would in particular hurt vulnerable groups and increase inequalities and social exclusion. The problems of selling to minors would remain a major challenge, as it is with alcohol. The production, sale and possession of narcotic drugs are illegal.
Criminal sanctions should be used in the user’s own best interests and in the interest of the user’s family and society at large. If criminal sanctions and law enforcement are applied in isolation they may however add to the user’s social marginalisation and entrench the person’s drug problems. Consequently they may complicate the prospects of future rehabilitation, recovery and social integration.
Individuals using or being in possession of drugs for their own consumption should always be apprehended by law enforcement authorities. A wide range of support services, incentives and sanctions should be available based on an assessment of their needs and their particular situation.
Criminal offenders in prison with a drug problem should receive proper treatment either in prison, with follow up treatment on release, or if appropriate be offered treatment as an alternative to prison.