European Drug Policy Survey

April 25, 2012

In the first comprehensive European report on the attitudes of adults on drug policy, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and its partners have found that the vast majority of adults in seven EU countries are not deterred by drug laws, but they think that drug laws may have a deterrent effect on other people.

Criminal Laws do not deter Europeans from using Drugs

The public opinion surveys were conducted on representative samples of adult populations in six European Union countries, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, from November 2008 to January 2009. The countries surveyed had been selected to represent a variety of national drug policies from repressive to liberal approaches. HCLU prepared the report in partnership with local NGOs. Earlier on, a similar survey was conducted in Hungary, and the results were also incorporated in the report.

According to the findings of the report countries are deeply divided along the lines of criminal legislation on cannabis – the majority of respondents favours a “war on cannabis” in Sweden (58%), Bulgaria (57%) and Poland (59%), while the majority supports some form of decriminalization or legalization in The Netherlands (76%), Denmark (62%) and the Czech Republic (59%).

Most respondents do not consider criminal laws as a deterrent factor when deciding about their own drug use: less than 10 percent of all respondents said that the illegality of drugs was an important argument that would stop them using these substances – arguments about social and health risks seem to be much more plausible to the majority. However, only 27 percent of all respondents would eliminate sanctions on the personal use of cannabis. This reveals a significant inconsistency between the real and imaginary deterrent effect of drug laws.

The majority of respondents consider drug use as being, first and foremost, a public health issue: when respondents were asked to rank people according to their competence to deal with problem drug users, less than 20% ranked “policeman” at the first place, while the majority thought that it is either the family, or health and social professionals who need to tackle problematic drug use. 

The results prove that there is a wide public acknowledgement of needle exchange as an effective method of HIV prevention among IDUs. In some countries (like Sweden) this contradicts the hostile attitudes of authorities.

Read full report here: EDPI poll report (.pdf)