07 February 2014
Category : Interview
The “vicious circle” in drug demand reduction
Interviews with three experts in the field of Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) in Latin America and the European Union
COPOLAD, the drug abuse prevention programme in Latin America and the European Union led by FIIAPP, is holding the LA-EU Research Networks conference “Evidence-based public policies: progress and challenges”this week in Madrid for the purpose of promoting and facilitating contacts and cooperation between the researchers in attendance. Three of them, Mayra Hynes, member of the Inter American Commission for Drug Abuse Control (CICAD – OAS), Augusto Pérez, a Colombian researcher with the Latin American Network of Drug Researchers (REDLA), andRonald Simon, of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), talk in this interview about the context and challenges to be confronted currently in the field of research on DDR in Latin America and the European Union.
What are the main obstacles to achieving Drug Demand Reduction?
Marya Hynes: In Latin America and the Caribbean, it’s knowing and understanding what to work on to implement suitable public prevention policies. Also knowing how to evaluate the policies to detect whether they’re working or not.
Augusto Pérez: The lack of government policies. A president comes to power and says one thing, then the next one says another and paralyzes everything that came before. This has happened many times in South American countries. Another problem is lack of interest when it comes to investing in research and evaluation. A vicious circle exists: if we don’t evaluate, we don’t know what works.
Ronald Simon: In the European Union, we’re in a somewhat better position in this sense, but we also have a funding problem, especially in resources for prevention. I believe that public interest in this field has declined lately.
What comes first: the demand for drugs or the supply?
MH: They’re always going to be related. And what we’re seeing, for example, in Europe and the United States, is that if you limit access to a substance and you don’t offer addicts an alternative, like treatment or social support to prevent relapses, the problem does not go away and it turns into something worse.
AP: In the case of Colombia, our problem is drug trafficking. We are producers. There are 300,000 consumers of illegal substances who need treatment, but, considering that we have over 40 million inhabitants, this is not extremely worrisome; the fact that the guerrillas are financing their activities with drug money is. There we have a problem of criminal gangs.
RS: Without demand, there is no supply; and without supply there is no demand. It’s a market. What we have to do is limit access to the substances.
What can LA contribute to the EU, and vice versa, in the reduction and prevention of drug demand?
RE: Europe is made up of different countries with different experiences and historical pasts, in addition to having enjoyed an excellent position in the last 15 years with money from Europe for drug research, which has enabled us to develop work tools. Our Latin American colleagues can study them and see if they can adapt them, or tell us we’re completely nuts (he jokes, laughing). And in the other direction, I believe we can observe how they work and look at how we work from a distance and with a critical eye. If it works, it’s a bilateral process.
AP: We have different cultures and forms of organization, but, in any case, we can share our data, and try to reach conclusions and construct theories together.
MH: To start to understand what our differences are. There is great diversity in drug use.
Is this meeting being organized by COPOLAD a good opportunity to share this knowledge?
AP: Of course.
MH: Yes, and I also think they’re paying attention, listening and responding to what was discussed in previous events.
RE: Yes, this is the right path. They are willing to listen and react to these discussions, and they are developing relationships of cooperation between people.
What are the main challenges in Drug Demand Reduction?
MH: In addition to what has already been mentioned, detecting the emergence of new drugs.
AP: Also keeping the decision-makers in this field informed. The better informed they are, the more money they will invest in research in this field.
RS: Developing additional evidence-based prevention measures, finding approaches, establishing points in common and rethinking things together.
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