The 67th meeting of the Heads of National Focal Points of the European information network on drugs and drug addiction (REITOX) was held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 28 to 30 November 2022. The meeting was attended by representatives of all 29 REITOX countries, and a representative of the European Commission.
The main topics of the meeting:
Introduction and follow-up of previous meetings
The Reitox spokesperson shared a brief summary of the pre-Reitox meeting during which an update from the Scientific Committee meeting and the main topics under consideration were shared. The impact of the new regulation may have on the network’s workload and resources at national level was also discussed. The need to proactively prepare for the implementation of the new mandate was also highlighted and the idea of creating working groups within the RTX network was launched. The network further expressed its intention to be engaged in the future development of new tools and indicators. Various concerns were voiced: the need for a more balanced presentation of the supply and demand reduction information in the EDR; the potential impact of the formalisation of an already functional but informal working relationship some NFPs have with law enforcement agencies and the latter’s capacity to report on more data; as well as the consequences of the EMCDDA budget cut on the NFPs resources and reporting capability.
Plenary session I: Update on key recent and future policy and institutional developments
Portugal NFP thanked the NFPs actively involved in the Lisbon Addictions Conference 2022. The feedback shared was that the Reitox network enjoyed great visibility during the conference. All the presentations will be available on the conference website beginning 2023. The next edition will be held between 23-25 Oct 2024. At national level, cannabis developments lead the agenda, with a project of legalisation which will be discussed in Parliament before the end of the year.
Peter Mihok (EC) underlined that the current EU priority in the drugs field is the implementation of the recently adopted strategies in the area (Drugs Strategy and Organised Crime Strategy). In terms of legislative activities, the Europol mandate entered into force in June 2022 and strengthens its capacity to support criminal investigations, including the possibility to process large and complex data sets.
Plenary session II: Revision of the EMCDDA mandate
The Director of the EMCDDA Alexis Goosdeel delivered an online presentation on the first implementation plan of the new mandate over the next 12-18 months, ahead of its presentation to the EMCDDA Management Board (MB) for endorsement. He underlined the shift from the original monitoring mandate of the Agency towards a stronger pillar of monitoring accompanied by two new ones: preparedness and competences development. While monitoring will continue at the heart of the work of the Agency, preparedness will become its higher-level purpose. Preparedness will entail strengthening the capacity to anticipate future evolutions, a more robust alert system for all drugs, and supporting the EU in better responding to emerging threats. He then shared the five portfolios grouping the scientific activities and the six upgraded services which will be provided by the Agency in the context of the new mandate.
Plenary session III: RTX network business and international cooperation projects
The Centre presented an overview of the developments for each of the 27 milestones of the Roadmap 2025. This overview was based on the information available at the Centre. The goal now is for NFPs to also populate the document with information on the activities conducted at national level. The Centre reminded that for final assessment of the implementation of the Roadmap 2025, the same methodology used for the Roadmap 2020 will be used.
Plenary session IV: Risks to public safety and security updates
The session included an update from the Early Warning System, together with an overview of the past 25 years of monitoring and responding to new drugs in Europe. Information was shared on ongoing and upcoming activities to support the scientific community and the work of forensic and toxicology professionals. The presentation also contains data on recent trends, including a small decrease in the number of NPS identified, a discussion on the semi-synthetic cannabinoid hexahydrocannabinol, an update on the situation on synthetic opioids, and the alerts issued during the year on NPS and controlled substances.
Plenary session V: Golden hour
The NFPs discussed concerns around the EDR and the need to have a more balanced approach between the health and security aspects. There was an overall acknowledgement of the importance and usefulness of the EDR as a concise, top-level overview document on latest trends and developments. However, some of the NFPs found that the EDR was lacking content on prevention, treatment and harm reduction.
Plenary session VI: Public Health updates
The NFPs were presented with the latest updates in the area of public health. These included an overview of the available digital products: European Responses Guide, the ESCAPE project platform, viral hepatitis elimination barometer, EURO-DEN Plus map, web surveys, and PLATO Practice Training PLATfOrm. Updates were also shared on drug consumption rooms, cannabis preparedness activities. Ongoing contracts and developmental areas were highlighted including in the areas of cannabis policy evaluation, gender and drugs, medical use of psychedelics, drugs and mental health\ psychiatric co-morbidities. On Ukraine, the survey used for the trendspotter was sent to the NFPs to assess changes in the situation. The second half of this Plenary was dedicated to four marketplace sessions on digital platforms, recession and drug use, drug consumption rooms and European Responses Guides.
Plenary session VII: National reporting package 2023
The presentation on the small changes proposed for 2023 touched on the following reporting tools: the update of the substance list in few STs , prison workbook, drug policy workbook and harms and harm reduction (ST10). All the attending NFPs agreed with the proposed changes and the national reporting package for 2023 was adopted.
Plenary session VIII: Communication updates
The COM team delivered a presentation updating on the latest communication developments. This included information on recent publications that were launched in November, an overview of the EMCDDA presence and stand at Lisbon Addictions 2022, and the EWS 25-year campaign and materials (including a recent Spanish translation of the EWS update published in June). Upcoming publications include: the cannabis and amphetamine EDMR modules due to be launched in Q2 of 2023 and further Responses guide modules foreseen for Q4 of 2022 and 2023. The published responses miniguides are now available in multiple languages. Other publications planned for 2023 include: web survey papers, European guidance on health communication for drug-checking services, a technical report on recession and drug use, and an overview of cannabis legislation in Europe.
Source: Conclusions and action points, 67th meeting of Reitox Heads of National Focal Points, EMCDDA