Read more: Recovery from addiction is not only possible but should be the primary treatment outcome

Statement presented at the CND by Mr Boro Goic, recovered heroin addict from Bosnia Herzegovina, 

I am Boro Goic, living and working in Bosnia Herzegovina at the grassroots level, and I am the Chairman of RUN Recovered Users Network. Over the past year in preparation for the UNGASS, I was the representative of affected population - recovered users. This means that my task was to engage recovery-oriented NGOs, member of RUN as well as NGOs around the world and collect best practices and models, lessons learned, challenges ahead and relevant contributions to refine drug policies and suggestions for policy makers on what works what doesn’t work, what contributes to recovery and what are the obstacles in the process towards full recovery from addiction. First step of the process was dissemination of the Global Civil Society Survey to 70 organizations in our networks who also sent the link to their partners and working groups. Approximately 153 organizations participated in the consultations.

I made a contact with recognized and respected researches and community members,  but also representatives of governments which incorporated recovery oriented approaches in their national drug strategies, in order to assess whether those shifts in drug policies are effective as a solution to drug problems or not.

These are findings from recovered users and their organizations. When I say recovered that means that this is a voice of people who had drug problems and today they are living in total abstinence and they are contributing members of society. This is their message:

ØSuccessful drug free treatment programs exist and make important contributions to treatment outcomes

ØRecovery is worth promoting as the ultimate, achievable outcome for substance use disorders

ØRecovery works and has a long term positive effect on individuals, families and communities

ØReducing the stigmatization, stereotyping and discrimination of (recovered) drug users and increasing awareness of the needs of this population can help them achieve recovery goals and facilitate successful reintegration in society.

ØAll families want drug free family members and communities and they have crucial role in motivating drug users to seek treatment.

ØIn general, motivating addicts has proven to be a very important factor for initiating a process of recovery.

ØFrom the costs and benefits standpoint, the costs of drug-related problems outweigh social benefits of drug treatment and recovery programs.

ØInvesting in recovering and recovered addicts leads to a positive net gain in the long run

Ø Recovery is focused on strengths and assets of a person, and not their weaknesses and deficits

Ø It is recognized, there are lot of testimonies about successful recovery from drug abuse without relapse.

ØRecovery should be the focus and aim of treatment and the patient’s health should be the central concern.  This may result in many more people getting better and fewer people remaining in expensive, clinical treatments in the longer term

Ø Drug use is a recoverable condition and, in many cases, is not the original problem but the solution to the problem. Often the removal of addiction without action to address underlying problems can make the person more vulnerable.

ØIt is important to, instead of only looking at the clinical model, also look at more social and educational models alongside and  to stop treating drug addiction only as a chronic relapsing condition

ØThere is a need for mixed economy and we need to combine the best clinical models to the best recovery models so that people with addiction problems can be helped to get well.  

Very interesting is what recovered users are saying about harm reduction:

ØHarm reduction, understood as the provision of health and social services to active drug users, can never replace primary prevention and treatment/rehabilitation as the main strategy in global, national and local drug policies

ØHarm reduction initiatives fail to address the bulk of drug-related harm, but are nonetheless essential to assist drug users with their acute problems.

ØIn general, providing drug treatment alone (e.g. substitute prescribing) without additional support or services had only limited and inconsistent effects on recovery from addition and so being on therapy for multiple years seems to actually erode a person’s cognitive ability and so can be said to delay the onset of recovery in that person’s life.

Ø Harm reduction can lead to recovery and recovery is the ultimate harm reduction measure

Ø All recovery CSOs have spoken out against the legalization of cannabis. Any policy or program that normalizes any recreational drug use is harmful to the public interest.

One must admit that it is really incredible that people, who have been addicts until “yesterday”, don’t think that any, not even recreational use of drugs is acceptable or good. For sure this way of thinking is a result of their personal experience with drugs and drug dependence, and they have realized that use of drugs has brought only harms to their health, and harms to their families and to the community in general.

ØRecovery oriented systems of care have a potential to enhance recovery capital  (mental health, self-esteem, resilience, family support, peer support) that a person can bring to bear on the initiation and maintenance of recovery

Ø Quitting addiction has an economic impact on reducing the costs of life long maintenance treatment, the cost of unemployment and lack of productivity  as well as the social costs related to the families and affected communities

Recovered users urge the need for :

Ø acknowledging  that abstinence is a goal for many drug users seeking help. Research in Scotland (on drug user aspirations from drug treatment services ) has shown that many drug users contacting drug treatment services are looking for assistance in becoming drug free. This study with 1007 drug users initiating treatment in Scotland, found that 76% of those questioned identified the goal of becoming drug free as their sole reason for contacting drug treatment services. In contrast, only 15% of those questioned said they were seeking to stabilize their continued drug use and less than 10% said they were looking for advice on how to use their drugs with greater safety.

That research plus number of factors and different environmental changes, has influenced the development a new drug strategy in UK. This is a statement from UK government in 2010:

A fundamental difference between this strategy and those that have gone before is that instead of focusing primarily on reducing the harms caused by drug misuse, our approach will be to go much further and offer every support for people to choose recovery as an achievable way of dependency

ØRecovery should be incorporated as an important facet of drug policy

Østrengthening  the evidence base around recovery based treatment, including the role of family and close friends

Ørecognizing the potential of recovered users and 
1. assist them in their way back to the society;
2. acknowledge their potential to help their peers.

ØMember States and UN agencies should develop effective drug policies, strategies that integrate prevention, treatment, recovery, enforcement and harm reduction to create policies and communities that are safe and healthy for all.

From draft UNGASS document!

Treatment of drug use disorders, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration; prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and other blood-borne infectious diseases

We fully support that drug dependence is recognized as a treatable multi-factorial health disorder, which is to be addressed through effective scientific evidence-based drug treatment, care and rehabilitation programs, including community-based programs, and strengthen aftercare, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration, of dependent drug users including through, as appropriate, assistance for the productive reintegration into the labor market and other support services;

Also we also support services to ensure access to a broad range of interventions, including psycho-social, behavioral and medication-assisted treatment, as appropriate and in accordance with national legislation, as well as to rehabilitation, social reintegration and recovery-support programs,  

We fully support that drug dependence is recognized as a treatable multi-factorial health disorder, which is to be addressed through effective scientific evidence-based drug treatment, care and rehabilitation programs, including community-based programs, and strengthen aftercare, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration, of dependent drug users including through, as appropriate, assistance for the productive reintegration into the labor market and other support services;

Also we also support services to ensure access to a broad range of interventions, including psycho-social, behavioral and medication-assisted treatment, as appropriate and in accordance with national legislation, as well as to rehabilitation, social reintegration and recovery-support programs,

In the end I can only say that we all need to strive for the recovery oriented systems of care and towards creating more balanced policies in which recovery takes our ultimate goal. Many examples prove that recovery works and that it is possible to recover. I started using drugs when I was 14 years old. If there were no people to motivate me, rehab centers to teach me new values and, if there wasn’t the reintegration program available to me, I would not be sitting here right now. Yes, I was on the methadone maintenance program too, and I was just taking advantage of the program, it did not reduce my need for taking drugs. I can say that MMP just helped me with my stabilization phase in a way that it enabled me to understand the fact that I needed to continue with my journey towards drug free life, and I needed to start abstinence based treatment. Today, 14 years since I injected my last hit of heroin, I can say that I have started to live a life worth living only when I stopped taking any substance. I hope that decision makers will realize the importance of all policies being focused on full recovery from addiction. Thx.


UN delegates met in Vienna for delegations and negotiations of an outcome document to be adopted by the general assembly in New York at the special session in 19-21 april - THE UNGASS. 

ECAD organized a side event on Cannabis legalization along with partners. The key message of the event was to highlight the birth of a new legal and commercialized cannabis industry that targets youngsters, fights regulation and promotes drug use to gain consumers in the US and beyond. The negative health effects for developing countries mirrors those from tobacco and alcohol industries aggressively seeking new markets. There is also a clear breach of international obligations since the conventions require signatories to restrict use of narcotic drugs to medical and scientific purposes only. Denying cannabis legalization is not to deny that there are no room for improvement of global drug policy however. ECAD secretary general concluded the side event with his view on how to best progress international drug control into the 21th century. 

A statement was read to the CND delegates by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) President Kevin Sabet which can be read here

The World Health Organization recently published a comprehensive report on non-medical use of cannabis which is a must read for anyone interested in the subject

The speech by ECAD Secretary General can be read down below

Read more: ECAD at 59th Session of Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now more important than ever to maintain and expand upon drug control. But that can be done in smart way. There are as many ways to control drugs as there are member states in the UN but what all of them (should) have in common is the recognition that use of illicit drugs should be limited to medical and scientific purposes only. The current framework of drug control allow states flexibility to adjust their responses according to local specifies.

What must be pointed out however is that we have seen the effects of commercialization and non-medical drug use before drug control both in present times, in Colorado and before. The level of opiate consumption in the 19th century is unprecedented by today’s levels. In fact for all other drugs except cannabis the prevalence is not even one per cent. The drug control system is in this regards highly successful in containing the world drug problem.

Challenges to the international community blamed on drug control can and should be addressed within the current drug control system: 

- Criminal Justice Reforms in many countries have enabled alternative and smarter sanctions for criminal offenders with underlying substance abuse. Short term (harm reduction) measures to improve the health of those with substance abuse can be efficient but should not replace a strong commitment to recovery from addition.

- Prevention of initiation of drug use should be a primary goal of sound drug policy. Environmental prevention which aims to create sound and drug –free communities that prevent – don’t promote drug use.

- For countries plagued by drug traffickers and organized crime there is no shortcut. Institutions need to be strengthened, rule of law implemented, corruption addressed and development and/or alternative development facilitated.

All these actions are perfectly possible to take within the current framework of drug control. What is not in conformity with the spirit of the conventions is the simplistic call for (re)legalization of drugs, in this case Cannabis, which constitutes a regression (not progression) towards international cooperation and public health of mankind.

Let us expand upon and not discard the current regulatory system. Only thus can drug control be advanced in the 21th century. 

Erik Leijonmarck, Secretary General ECAD

The Fifth World Forum Against Drugs was held 12-13 March in Vienna in conjunction with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. ECAD Secretary General participated and moderated a panel discussion on the future of the world drug policy titled UNGASS and Beyond. 

WFAD president Sven Olof Carlsson held a speech titled Drug policies should prevent the initiation of drugs use.
The forum also adopted a statement calling for an end to non-medical use of cannabis. 

Photo by Slim Lidén
Read more: ECAD Participates at the fifth World Forum Against Drugs

Rehabilitation and Educational Centre Jegersberg i Kristiansand, Norway, slings its doors open for ECAD study visit early this summer. 

Read more: Study visit to Rehabilitation centre Jegersberg

It is a wonderful opportunity for ECAD members to visit a Rehabilitation centre that ECAD has been observing the formation of from the very beginning. Jegersberg has been influenced by San Patrignano Recovery community methodology but the Centre is very much adapted to the Norwegian style of life and culture.

Save 1st and 2nd of June in your calendar and join us at Jegersberg!

To take part in the study visit, please fill in the Booking Form here and send it back to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download Invitation to visit Jegersberg (PDF) here


A mixture of various perspectives (from the police and European Monitoring Agency to a user`s and NGO`s viewpoints) were given at ECAD organized conference in Riga to explain the popularity of new psychoactive substances in the Baltic Sea region. ECAD thanks Riga Stradins University for the smooth cooperation and advanced conference premises.

Chemically produced synthetic cannabinoid mixes under a generic name of Spice are widely known in Latvia as well as in Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Lithuania. These new psychoactive substances are not controlled by the UN Conventions and European law enforcement agencies had to fight with wind mills for almost a decade, chasing small dealers. At the same time, drug experts are warning about the unknown pharmacology and toxicology of the products starting the end of 2000-ies until today.Read more: ECAD takes up Spice issue in Riga
Many synthetic cannabinoid mixes were nothing new but unsuccessful pharmacological probes, taken in order to study certain receptors in the brain: CB1 and CB2, which are very important for chemical research, according to Rita Jorge, EMCDDA scientific analyst (Download conference presentation - UPDATED).

Already in 2009, EMCDDA listed Latvia along with the UK (biggest share, 42%), Romania and Ireland, as having the highest number of the online retailers selling spice mixtures. These substances became new to the retail market in Latvia, but were actually for sale in European webshops since 2007- 2008 and were strikingly cheap.
As its notorious popularity grew, numerous trading points got opened in Riga and its suburbs, selling small packages of mixes labelled “Spice”, “Yucatan Fire” etc., bearing no legal responsibility for the items that were available for anyone because of the low prices. Anyone, from young teenagers with no family support, coming from an orphanage, to well-off youngsters from the most prestigious high schools, could be the user. Students were selling to their peers at schools and person-to-person techniques proved to be more “efficient” for spread rather than selling via the webshops. On the top of that, aggressive marketing techniques were used, advertising intentionally misleading and mislabelled products (no mark of synthetic compounds in the ingredients of the packages).
The combination of these factors made synthetic cannabinoids popular and it reached the acme in Riga in the middle of 2013.
Estonian colleagues registered first spice intoxications in 2009 but were never really troubled by it to any notable extent. In Sweden, 2014 saw the occurrence of over 300 overdoses attributed to Spice (according to the data published by the Institute for Security and Development Policy).

In 2013, Riga had 59 officially registered small stores dealing with spice and its impact on the market was huge, the vast majority of the clients were underage, shared Andrejs Aronovs, Read more: ECAD takes up Spice issue in Riga Riga Municipal police Vice Chief, with the conference (picture). The practice of cooperating with the civil society, using You-Tube accounts and radio programmes to launch a warning campaign for the young, was a truly successful combination, admitted both the Police and Riga City Council representatives. Finally, rapid amendments in the criminal law system resulted in closing the Spice shops. After 6 months of counteracting, new administrative fines were introduced for very small amounts of synthetic mixes for consumption; while selling, dealing, producing and consuming in larger quantities turned into criminal offences overnight (on April 8, 2014).

Riga City Council Executive Director Juris Radzevics underlined the capacity of every society to draw its own drug policy. The Spice issue for Latvian citizens became a catalyst for change, sharpening prevention techniques as the issue of Spice-related intoxications and fatal outcomes for the young shocked Latvians and the society responded acutely.

The case of society mobilization in front of an epidemic of fatal drug intoxications in Latvia proved to be a classic case for applying risk and protection factors in prevention, said Anders Eriksson, one of the community prevention experts invited to the conference (Download conference presentation).

A striking user`s perspective was provided by Martin Dahlander, now free from Spice and other drugs for 696 days at the conference time. The near-to-death effects of Spice intoxication, the length of the “afterglow” and the types of synthetic cannabinoid mixtures one could buy using the dark web, were of special value for the EMCDDA`s scientific analyst present. After 11 years with Spice, the importance of a helping hand (CRIS; a powerful NGO assisting former addicts to return to a sober and crime-free life) and of someone who was totally dependent on Martin, was difficult to underestimate.

Latvian NGOs ( admitted that it was mostly important to identify the dealers, but also to stand against the normalisation of drug use, as it seemed that everyone was using the mixes. In fact, one in six 15-16 year olds actually experimented, that made up to 5 users in each school class of 25-30 persons. One fact in common for all of the dealers was a defying demeanour, being outrageously shameless in order to smart out the law system. In that case, meeting the loathsome behaviour of the teenagers, many social workers chose to act out on the non-violent resistance parenting principles (to watch, to reflect, to support and to encourage), shared Inga Dreimane, the head of the Youth Centre “Pardaugava” (Download conference presentation).

Even if Latvian officials announce the “Spice-case” closed for the time being, the media and NGOs ( still confirm the problem exists today. ECAD conclusion is that synthetic mixes need continuous monitoring in the neighbouring countries (Sweden, Norway) as it has become a legislative challenge for the drug policies in the countries of the region. Also Swedish Spice market needs to be examined for that purpose, and the project partners look forward to study visits and a conference in Stockholm to discover it this fall.

Conference Presentation materials:

"Understanding the "spice" phenomenon" (UPDATED!)  Rita Jorge, Scienttific Analyst, EMCDDA, Action on New Drugs Sector, Supply reduction and new drugs unit

"Prevention in Riga, how does it work?"  Vivita Kikule, Head of public Health Promotion and Prevention Unit, Riga City Council, Welfare Department
"An effective prevention: Stockholm city perspective and experience"  Anders Eriksson, Prevention Specialist, Prevention Centre Stockholm, Sweden

"Space up your life; what happened in Riga in 2013-2015"  Inga Dreimane, Prevention Specialist, Head of Structural Unit "Pardaugava"

"What can parents do to prevent drug and alcohol debuts?"  Jörgen Larsson, Idependent Prevention Expert


ECAD's activities from year to year culminate in the annual ECAD Mayors Conference, hosted by a distinct ECAD member city every summer. Councillors and other politicians and policymakers convene with academics and civil society organizations to participate in seminars and study visits, discussing the latest developments in drug prevention efforts throughout Europe.

26th Mayors Conference - Cork 2019



and 6th World Forum Against Drugs

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Conference materials

Kevin Sabet, PhD, Director, Drug Policy Institute, University of Florida, President, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), USA
Speech at the WFAD /ECAD 25th Mayors Conference, Gothenburg, May 15, 2018 (Video 5min.)

Supply reduction in Peril?  A lot of the worlds`s drug supply emanates from a war-torn Columbia.
Dr. Michael Jonsson, FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency

Text to the slides (PDF)
In Columbia, a peace deal has been struck, which gives hope for a closure of insurgency and violence. (PDF)

Thomas Pietschmann, Dr, Drug Research Section, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs
The International drug control system, global/regional and national drug patterns and trends, and supply reduction efforts at the international level (PDF)


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Photo: Götaplatsen @ Klas Eriksson

Annual Mayors` Conference and the 6th World Forum Against Drugs will take off on May 14-15 in Gothenburg this year.
This joint event will address a growing interest to the effective prevention practices, full recovery and alternatives to incarceration and to life-long dependency on drug treatment.
The conference will create a room for elaborating a practical guide to how a recovery city will look like, this will be grounded on the recent evidence-based research.
Sheffield Hallam University (UK), Ghent University (Belgium) and the City of Gothenburg have already started working on this guide in practice.

In order to find out more and to register please visit a joint webpage here.

 WFAD logo jpg  Logo Gothenburg


Kaunas logotypeRegister to

ECAD 24th Mayors` Conference materials

On June 12-13, the city of Kaunas hosted ECAD 24th Annual Mayors`s Conference 2017

Safe Cities Without Drugs. Preventing, Protecting, Policing

Key-note speakers:

David W. Spencer, Field intelligence Manager, Drug Enforcement Agency, European Region

Supply reduction and dismantling drug trafficking organizations: In what ways can local communities benefit (PDF)

Kim Nilvall, Swedish National Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence section, Organized crime

Police work in socially disadvantaged areas in Sweden: Impact of drugs on urban crime (PDF)

 Torsten Stodiek, Deputy Head, Strategic Police Matters Unit, Community Policing Advisor, Transnational Threats Department, OSCE

Preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism and radicalisation that lead to terrorism:

A community and intelligence led policing approach (PDF)

Jon Sigfusson, Director for Icelandic Centre of Social Research and Analysis, Reykjavik University, ICSRA

Youth in Europe and Planet Youth (PDF)

Laimonas Vasiliauskas, Senior Specialist, Serious and Organized Crime Department, EUROPOL

European Illicit Drug Market (PDF)

 Antonio Boscini, Health Director, San Patrignano Community, Rimini, Italy

Recovery and social reinsertion: San Patrignano Community model extended (PDF)

a wall of participants



 Conference Booking Form

@ Rokas Tenys, the Kaunas Castle

Kaunas Castle
Picture: @Rokas Tenys

Warm welcome to Kaunas, Lithuania!

Archives of ECAD's mailed newsletters from 2003 until 2013. To subscribe to ECAD's new email-based newsletter, click here.
Official ECAD mission statements in six different European languages.
The ECAD Resolution, crafted at a conference to increase cooperation between cities, provides inspiration and hope for areas with particularly difficult drug problems. The signatories to the resolution will affirm their decision to fight against the spread of drugs.