Drug Policy Reform

Despite making formal commitments to the principles of a balanced and health-oriented drug policy, many countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) are failing to treat drug use as a public health issue. Some countries, in fact, have regressed to more repressive rhetoric directed at people who use drugs (PWUD).

Current drug policies continue to have negative health and social impacts in CEECA and to result in human rights violations, corruption, the emergence of new drugs, and other unintended consequences or side effects. 

High-level decision-makers may not always understand the links between police raids and increased overdose mortality. They may not know how the criminalization of drug use may lead to police violence against women. The relationship between the lack of state support for opioid substitution treatment programs and high HIV mortality rates may also be unclear to those who are in charge of drug policy at the national level.

As a result of repressive drug policies and the lack of national funding for harm reduction programs, PWUD living in the region experience legal pressures and barriers when accessing healthcare services. This, in turn, leads to more infections, higher mortality rates, and continued imprisonment of more and more PWUD. Institutional sustainability of harm reduction in the region depends on the reform of repressive drug policies and law enforcement practices that would result in drug use being addressed as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue.

Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, uniting over 600 individual and organizational members in 29 countries, is working to strengthen advocacy by its members, civil society and PWUD organizations in the region and allies/partners at the national, regional and international levels for a non-repressive and enabling legal and law enforcement environment that respects the civil and human rights of PWUD.

EHRN aims to achieve the following impact in the area of drug policy reform:

  • A consensus is achieved between law enforcement and other government agencies, civil society and the PWUD community in the region on the need to reform repressive drug policy and reduce criminalization, discrimination and violence against PWUD.
  • Diversion from arrest and alternatives to imprisonment, including referral to effective drug treatment, become a mainstream practice in CEECA.
  • Drug use and possession for personal use are decriminalized.
  • International and national human rights mechanisms enable PWUD to exercise their rights in CEECA.
  • Human rights protection of PWUD in the region meets international standards — for example, the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS).

To contribute to promote rights and health of PWUD in the region, EHRN engages new partners, registers and documents violations of human rights, and provides technical guidance for formulating and enforcing drug policies and models of non-repressive laws and their enforcement. At the national level, EHRN provides information, technical and political support to local non-governmental organizations in advocacy for the freedoms and rights of PWUD, helps form alliances, and engages international and national policymakers in drug policy reform and human rights protection.  

Civil society involvement in the EU Strategy for Drugs Midterm Review

EHRN will support its members’ involvement in the EU Strategy for Drugs Midterm Review by providing them with training and analytical and advocacy tools and by coordinating, documenting and publicizing this process at the regional level. Special attention will be given to providing critical feedback on countries’ progress in redressing the negative consequences of criminalization of drug use and possession and the level of state funding for harm reduction.

Regional Forum “Seeking Alternatives to Repressive Drug Policies, April 25–26, 2016, Kiev, Ukraine

The main goal of the regional forum was to plan regional cooperation to address the recommendations of the UNGASS outcome document. Organized in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the forum aimed to strengthen the partnership between civil society, including PWUD, and law enforcement agencies in advocating for drug policy reform aimed at improving public health and safety. It focused on alternatives to incarceration and detention for minor drug-related offences, and police referral to health and social services. 


What impact is your country's drug policy having?


Baltic Trip. Latvia
Baltic Trip. Lithuania
Baltic Trip. Estonia