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Migration and Home Affairs

The current drugs situation in the EU requires comprehensive and multisector responses across security, health and social policy covering the law enforcement, scientific, environmental, socio-political, technological and international dimensions of the issue. A people-centred and human rights-oriented approach are the cornerstones of EU drugs policy.

EU coordination in the fight against drugs

tablets of drugs

As part of EU efforts in the field of drugs, the EU is taking strategic and operational measures to reduce drug supply and demand by working closely with all partners at national and international level, EU institutions, bodies and agencies, as well as civil society organisations.

Justice and Home Affairs EU agencies such as the EMCDDA (the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) and Europol (the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation) play a central role in the drugs field in the EU and internationally.

Through the EU Drugs Strategy, the EU coordinates evidence-based, balanced and integrated measures with EU countries and speaks with one voice internationally. Law enforcement action against drug trafficking is coordinated through EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats). Drugs-related health damage is addressed under prevention, treatment and care services and harm reduction.

EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025

In the context of the EU Security Union Strategy, the Commission adopted the EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs 2021-2025 to set out the Commission’s priorities for action in the field of drugs. Based on this document, the Council of the EU approved the EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025.

The Strategy aims to:

  • protect and improve the well-being of society and of the individual
  • protect and promote public health
  • offer a high level of security and well-being for the general public
  • 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.

The Strategy is structured around three policy areas that will contribute to achieving its aim, and three cross-cutting themes in support of the policy areas. Altogether, the Strategy encompasses 11 strategic priorities.

The three policy areas and corresponding strategic priorities are:

The three cross-cutting themes and corresponding strategic priorities are:

The EU Drugs Strategy is accompanied by an Action Plan covering concrete operational steps and activities.

Rules on new psychoactive substances (NPS)

Since 2005 a system is in place to detect new substances on the market and a mechanism to assess their risks and put those substances which are harmful under control across the EU. Based on a risk assessment made by the EMCDDA, the Commission presents a proposal to ban harmful new psychoactive substances.

Given the rapid rise of new psychoactive substances, the rules were updated in 2017 to:

  • Ensure that the EU has effective tools to take swifter action to ban the most dangerous of these substances from the EU drugs markets. This is due to shorter deadlines and more streamlined procedures.
  • Strengthen the role of the EMCDDA, which hosts the Early Warning System, working 7 days/week and 24 hours/day, to allow the sharing of information among EU countries.

EU Agencies and initiatives working in the field of drugs

Drugs policy Commission proposes the creation of a European Union Drugs Agency

Justice and Home Affairs EU agencies working in the field of drugs include:

  • EMCDDA (the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction)
  • Europol (the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation)
  • Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency)
  • Eurojust (the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation)
  • CEPOL (the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training)

The EMCDDA provides the EU and its countries with a factual overview on European level concerning drugs, drug addiction and their consequences. This provides a solid evidence base to support drugs policy-making on European and national level. Europol, Frontex, Eurojust and CEPOL support the EU and its countries in the area of freedom, security and justice, in which the issue of drugs is prioritised. The EU agencies also work with international organisations and other non-EU partners.

On 12 January 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal to revise the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), transforming it into the European Union Drugs Agency. This proposal seeks to ensure that the future Agency can react effectively to new challenges, provide better support to Member States, and contribute to developments at the international level. It delivers on the commitment made in the EU Drugs Action Plan 2021-2025 and EU Drugs Strategy 2021- 2025.

The Commission also co-funds initiatives in the field of drugs such as the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) which provides a forum for multi-lateral cooperation to suppress illicit drug trafficking by sea and air.

Civil society involvement

Civil society, in particular non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is an important partner in the implementation of EU drugs policy. The Commission has set up an Expert Group - the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD), which supports policy formulation and implementation through practical advice.

EU financial programmes for drug-related projects

The following EU financial programmes included funding for drug-related projects between 2014-2020, to help implement the objectives set by the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 and to foster cross-border cooperation and research on drug issues:

In the 2021-2027 programming period, the following funds are envisaged to address various drugs-related challenges:

International cooperation

scientists in laboratory

The international framework for regulating the production, export, import, distribution, trade, use and possession of illicit drugs is defined by three main international drug control conventions. Most UN countries are party to these conventions and have introduced drug control measures.

The EU is active on the international stage in the field of drugs, promoting the approach and objectives of the EU Drugs Strategy with one voice. The EU's external relations in the field of drugs are based on the principles of shared responsibility, multilateralism, the promotion of a development-oriented approach, respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law and respect for the international drug control conventions.

The EU addresses the issue of drugs internationally through:

  • taking up an active role at UN level, notably in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, to support the work on assessing and developing drug policies
  • regional dialogues on drugs with Latin America and the Caribbean, Central Asia, Eastern Partnership, and the Western Balkans
  • bilateral dedicated dialogues with a number of countries such as the US, China, and Russia
  • assistance for a wide range of drug-related cooperation projects in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa along the cocaine trafficking route, and in Afghanistan and Central Asia along the heroin route
  • technical assistance projects in the candidate countries and potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans, to help prepare for their possible accession to the EU

In terms of preventing the diversion of precursors that could be used in the manufacturing of drugs, cooperation between the EU and other regions or countries has a significant role to play (see dedicated page on drug precursors control).

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