Is the German drugs policy failing?

During the joint press conference of the German-based NGOs “accept e.V.” and “Deutschen AIDS-Hilfe” on 5 July 2019, experts call for evidence-based strategy instead of party politics.

The 6th Alternative Drug and Addiction Report 2019 puts fingers in the wound

During the joint press conference of the German-based NGOs “accept e.V.” and “Deutschen AIDS-Hilfe” on 5 July 2019, experts call for evidence-based strategy instead of party politics.

A joint press conference of the Federal Association for an Accepting Drug Work and Humane Drug Policy (accept e.V.) and the German AIDS Aid (Deutschen AIDS-Hilfe) took place on July 5th, 2019 in Berlin, on the occasion of the publication of the sixth Alternative Drug and Addiction Report 2019. Clear words were said: the current German drug policy is anything but good. Until recently, Marlene Mortler, the Federal Government Commissioner for Drugs and Drug Addiction, had neither consulted scientific experts - although such an advisory body existed - nor had she succeeded in pursuing sustainable strategies or at least initiating specialist debates.

The focus of the Alternative Drug and Addiction Report 2019 is on legal drugs alcohol and tobacco. According to the report, Germany is still a high-consumption country in this respect. Particularly the strategies to the advertising prohibition for tobacco and e-cigarettes are scientifically undifferentiated, said Dieter Jazbinsek, which provided a very detailed contribution on the issue in the report. Scientific studies, particularly with regard to e-cigarettes, are often characterized by a lack of transparency and lead to false assumptions, which only promote a policy of simplification, but do not offer a complex benefit/loss assessment.

Decriminalization and destigmatization

At the top of the Alternative Drug Report's agenda is also the demand for the decriminalization of consumers. Of the more than 350,000 drug-related offenses committed in the past year, around 80% were consumption-related offenses and thus those involving the consumption, possession, and transfer of illegal substances in personal quantities. This has once again intensified the criminalization of consumers. Young people, in particular, have more widespread use of cannabis and run the risk of not being provided with long term strategies of support. This, as the youth welfare offices, can refuse any guidance on drug consumption and would instead refer cases to units dealing with illegal substances. 

Dirk Schäffer of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe (German AIDS Aid) said that the overall support for consumers was inadequate. In only 7 out of 16 German federal states, there are consumption rooms which are perceived by many addicts as their first line of access to any help. Due to the rapid intervention rates, fatal accidents during drug consumption can often be avoided in situ. Of the approximately 1,300 drug deaths last year, only one occurred in a consumption room - a fact that shows that there is great potential for harm reduction here. Even worse, there is still no comprehensive care available for the administration of Maloxone (metoclopramide), a drug whose administration has been proven to prevent opioid-related deaths and which can be carried as a nasal spray.

No extensive monitoring

In addition, there is no efficient monitoring. Although data on consumer behavior, substances, and consumer groups existed at the German state level, they were not brought together at the federal level, which prevented the systematization of drug policy strategies. Intensive research and data analysis would be needed to stimulate and implement science-based measures.

Drug-checking (a strategy to test drugs before consumption, to detect concentrations, types of substances mixed, and potentially poisonous components) could be another tool to get one step closer to this goal. This is already being practiced in neighboring countries Switzerland and Austria, as well as in the Netherlands, while legal hurdles still have to be overcome in Germany. Some drug checking projects have existed for years, but have not been implemented. A project of this kind is now to be launched in Berlin in the near future.

Proposals

The foreword to the 6th Alternative Drug and Addiction Report 2019, therefore, calls for fundamental changes for the office of the new German drug commissioner. Such a public post and team should best be staffed independently of political parties and supported by a commission of experts. As experts in this field, people from science, practice, aid organizations and, last but not least, consumers themselves should be consulted and understood. Here the demand for a new beginning is clearly in the foreground in order to shape the German drug policy in an innovative and impact-oriented way. 

The report also suggests:

Sources: 
Joint press conference of the organizations “akzept e.V.” and “Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, 05 July 2019 Berlin, 6th Alternative Drug and Addiction Report 2019

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