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Reducing drug demand RSS

Actions to reduce the demand for drugs are a priority of the EU Drugs Action Plan. Such actions cover a broad range of equally important and mutually reinforcing measures: prevention, early detection and intervention, treatment, risk and harm reduction, rehabilitation, social reintegration and recovery. These interventions are targeted at the general public or specific target groups. The use of illicit drugs has stabilised or somewhat declined in recent years, but is still at historically high levels.

The EU stresses the importance of further improving the availability, accessibility and coverage of effective and diversified of measures to reduce drug use and its consequences. The EU Drugs Strategy  pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv)calls for an integrated framework of interventions and approaches in the field of drug demand reduction.

Interventions must respect human dignity and physical integrity. They need to be based on the best available scientific evidence and they must be evaluated.

The EU Drugs Action Plan 2013-2016 pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) sets out actions to help achieve a measurable reduction in the use of illicit drugs, in problem drug use, in drug dependence and in drug-related health and social harms as well as contributing to a delay in the onset of drug use


Tailor-made prevention programmes are important to prevent the early onset of drug use. Programmes and interventions are designed to target specific groups at risk or to address drug use in specific settings such as in schools, nightclubs and bars.


A wide range of drug treatment services is available across the EU.

Over 50 % of problem opiate users in the EU are estimated to be enrolled in substitution treatment, a form of treatment in which alternatives to opiates, for example methadone or buprenorphine are prescribed to problem drug users.

Combined with psychosocial treatment, such interventions can help stabilise the physical and mental condition of the problem drug users, which helps to reduce overdose deaths and may contribute to their reintegration in society.

Harm Reduction

The 2003 Council Recommendation pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) on the prevention and reduction of health-harms associated with drug dependence seeks to support the implementation of harm reduction measures in the EU.

The implementation of the Council Recommendation in the EU countries was evaluated in 2007 pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) and in 2013 (Reportpdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link  - Country Profiles pdf(3 MB) Choose translations of the previous link - Systematic Literature Reviewspdf(555 kB) Choose translations of the previous link ). The second evaluation covered also most of EU candidate countries.

In the majority of EU countries measures to reduce drug-related harm have been implemented. Needle and syringe exchange programmes have been successful in reducing the spread of blood-borne infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and TB. Their coverage has expanded significantly in recent years. Other services such as information, counselling and education and low-threshold outreach activities are available in most countries. Overall a significant reduction in HIV infections among injecting drug users was noted across the EU – with the exception of recent HIV outbreaks in Greece and Romania and  an increase ofin new infections in Bulgaria and Lithuania.

However, according to the second implementation study, in spite of the efforts undertaken in the past decade by EU countries, the main aim of the Council Recommendation of 2003 – a substantial reduction of drug- related deaths -  has not yet been reached by now. The number of cases caused by the most frequent cause - overdose of opioids - the number of deaths even slightly increased in the last years. Where rehabilitation and reintegration is concerned, there is still a large demand for programmes to support the reintegration of problem drug users in society. The outcomes of surveys among policy-makers and stakeholders (from the NGO sector) suggest that the impact of the 2003 Recommendation was substantial for shaping harm-reduction policies, especially in the 12 newest EU countries and even more so in candidate countries.

The European Monitoring Agency for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) provides information on drug use trends across the EU, and on responses, including prevention, treatment and risk and harm reduction. 

The European Commission supports the development of innovative approaches in this field through its funding programmes Choose translations of the previous link  and through research Choose translations of the previous link  and studies.

The EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 sets as a priority the development and implementation of EU minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction. The EU Drugs Action Plan 2013-2016 tasks the Member States with agreeing on and commencing the implementation of EU minimum quality standards by 2016. The Commission has already conducted extensive work to prepare the ground for further efforts by EU governments to develop and implement EU minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction. It funded two studies on this topic - a wide-ranging study pdf(320 kB) Choose translations of the previous link covering quality standards in drug demand reduction, which was finalised in December 2011, and a specific study on standards in drug prevention.