Sweden Will Maintain, Develop And Enforce Its Restrictive Drug Policy

During a seminar on the future of Swedish drug policy, the first in a series of four taking place in Gothenburg, Umea, Stockholm and Malmo, the Swedish Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Mr Lars Engqvist, stated very clearly that “there will be no proposals for change of direction in Swedish drug policy: We will continue to maintain a restrictive drug policy.’ Speaking to the Swedish news agency TT, Mr Engqvist said “we want to make it clear to all actors in the field that we are not going to change direction  the goal is a drug free society.” On September 10 twelve Swedish NGOs issued a statement where they demanded comprehensive efforts against drugs.

In the statement the 12 NGOs declare, “Drug problems is no natural catastrophe. You cannot blame the European Union, lack of resources, parents not prepared to assume responsibility or the Russian Mafia. The truth is that Sweden faces the drug problems that we have created the necessary conditions for. Sweden is one of the few countries in the western world that has experience of an effective drug policy. Good preventive work, comprehensive treatment and ambitious police activities contributed to create a decrease in drug use during the 1980s. Weak political interest in drug—related issues during the 1990s resulted in reduced measures and, consequently, an increase in drug abuse. In its final report the Swedish Government’s Narcotic Commission has delivered an excellent analysis of the drug political development. We support a majority of the Comission’s proposals. However, proposals carry no weight without effective instruments of control….”

The demands of the twelve NGOs include the following aspects (summarised):

• Sweden should establish a central drug-political leadership. The Swedish Governments  Commission’s proposal to install a ‘drug czar’ is excellent.

• Local and national surveys on drug abuse should be conducted. The social services and other actors in the field should make sure the support and treatment reach those who need it urgently, and who have in spreading drugs.

• The school system must assume greater responsibility to make sure that education about drugs and life education become part of curriculum. Municipalities should increase activities for young people.

• Every drug user should have the right to treatment to get off drugs. Care and aftercare must be developed and made more effective. Drug users often deal drugs to young people. Consequently, effective treatment is a good preventive measure.

• Increased support to NGOs that work to counteract drug use and provide rehabilitation.

• As NGOs “we don’t love coercive measures.., but realise its necessity”. Coercive treatment should be developed and expanded to meet actual needs.

• The needs of the client should provide the basis for the choice of care and treatment. It’s absurd that municipal economy directs choice of treatment.

• As for control policy law enforcement agencies should be provided with further resources to be able to work effectively. Every county should have a drug squad. In larger cities there should be – street level drug squads and groups targeting young people.

• All proposals for decriminalisation of use of drugs must be rejected. We reject the classification of drugs in ‘soft drugs’ and ‘hard drugs’. Drug use can be discovered early and early discovery means that you prevent it earlier.

• It ought to be obvious that prisons should be drug free. There are several examples of successful interventions within the system for treatment of offenders. KRIS is an excellent example of what could be done to further development in this area.

• A comprehensive drug policy needs effective instruments of control. Experience tells us that laws/regulations in combination with government subsidy might be a successful way to reach the goals. State aid that is handed over to municipalities and county councils should be ‘earmarked’

Source: Hassela Nordic Network, Sept 2001.
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