With this 2003 annual report, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) presents to the EU and its Member States an overview of the drug phenomenon in Europe. The publication of the report coincides with the 10th birthday of the EMCDDA (1993 founding regulation). This is also the last time that we will focus only on the 16 countries that constitute our current membership (the 15 Member States and Norway). It therefore seems appropriate to reflect briefly on both the changes that have occurred in the drug phenomenon during this initial period and the progress made by the Monitoring Centre in our mission to provide policy makers with a sound, up-to-date and insightful commentary on the evolving European drug problem.

A key feature of the drug phenomenon is its dynamic nature. It is a sobering thought that, even if we restrict our attention to the short time that the EMCDDA has been in existence, the differences in the developments that have occurred in both the nature of the drug problem and the way in which Member States respond are profound. Patterns of drug consumption have always varied between European countries, especially in respect of scale. This remains true, but the data in this report show that, increasingly, trends are observable that illustrate the global and European nature of the issue. At one time, any comparison of drug use in Europe would be marked more by differences than by similarities; this is no longer the case. While the overall situation is complex and considerable local variation exists, more general and common patterns in drug use are also apparent. Increasingly, we can conclude that in many ways we share as Europeans a common drug problem and also, we believe, a common responsibility to learn from our shared experiences. We are not alone in this conclusion. The EU action plan on drugs demonstrates the political commitment given to this issue, and there is now a near universal recognition that policy in this area must be based on a clear understanding of the situation.

If drug problems have evolved during the last 10 years then, equally, so has our ability to report on them. Credit for this rests not with the EMCDDA alone, but also with the many dedicated professionals throughout the EU who have worked to understand the nature of the problem, to develop effective responses and to critically assess the impact of their work. We do believe, however, that the EMCDDA has played a vital role both in acting as a catalyst for the development of a sound evidence base and by providing the forum necessary for collaboration and progress at the European level. Ten years ago no one could have talked with confidence or authority on the nature of the European drug situation. Today, this report demonstrates that this is ever more possible. We are now both better prepared and better informed to deal not only with the drug problem we face at present, but also with any potential threats that we may be confronted with in the future. We would like to acknowledge the considerable investment that has been made both within Member States and at European level to develop the tools and infrastructure to provide this evidence base, and to express our thanks, in particular, to the focal points of the Reitox network.

We hope you will find this report a comprehensive overview of the European drug situation – further and more detailed data can also be found in the extended online version of this document. For the EMCDDA, this report, in our view, also successfully marks the end of the first phase of development of the organisation’s work, and we must now look to the challenges that the future will bring. Among these will be the need to continue to improve the availability, quality and comparability of the European data set, and we will need to develop our systems and capacity to manage efficiently a growing knowledge base on the drug situation across an enlarged European Union. We are in no doubt that we will increasingly be faced with a larger, more diverse and complex picture on which to report. A central challenge for the organisation will remain the need to exploit fully the information available to us to provide an informed, timely and policy-relevant analysis that reflects the value of an EU perspective and a harmonised approach.

Marcel Reimen
Chairman, EMCDDA Management Board

Georges Estievenart
Executive Director, EMCDDA