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Netherlands Intervention at Demand Reduction

The Netherlands intervention to the demand reduction round table was as follows:

‘My intervention is about the chain of care which we think is very important if we talk about demand reduction. When we talk about demand reduction, we talk about a comprehensive demand reduction package with prevention, treatment and harm reduction as equally important elements. There are 3 fundamental principles. Preventing is better than curing. Curing is better than harm reduction and harm reduction is better than doing nothing at all. Of course everyone will agree that active policy of discouragement is the first key point. Supply reduction is a way of preventing but despite our efforts a small minority of young people do experiment with illegal drugs and a smaller minority do become addicted. Netherlands is investing heavily to improve the effectiveness and quality of abstinence oriented treatment and it is really important we develop more evidence based approaches tailored to the specific needs of the addicts, where they are. But addiction is a chronic ailment with a high relapse rate and there is a small proportion of people who stay in this chronic condition. So when recognising this we have to see our responsibility does not stop at preventing or curing, it also includes preventing the risks run by drug users and for their families and this is where we come to harm reduction. Harm reduction is about saving people’s lives, not about legalisation. It is not a political base. It is based on evidence that you hope people will not die from their drug use but will live longer and have a better chance of getting better in the longer term. We know harm reduction works. If you look at some regions in the world har reduction is an important investment in the prevention of hiv aids. As UNODC has pointed out, a comprehensive package of needle exchange and substitution treatment is the most effective way to prevent hiv aids. The drug situation is changing and this requires that we have a flexible approach and we need to have as scientific as possible an approach, tailored to the cultural diversity of our societies. Respect for cultural diversity, so characteristic of the UN, must become characteristic of drug policy as well.’

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