The 69th 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 21 to 23 November 2023. The meeting was attended by representatives of 28 REITOX countries.

The main topics of the meeting:

Plenary session I: Update on key recent and future policy and institutional developments
Maria Moreira provided an update on the institutional developments for what regards the EUDA new setting. The current Scientific committee (SC) will meet in February 2024. The network is encouraged to disseminate the call for expression of interest for the new EUDA Scientific committee.

Plenary session II: Reitox network-EUDA 2024
The national reporting guidelines for 2024 were adopted by the network. An update on data foundation was provided. The first set of goals includes developing the process governance, the production of standard operating procedures (SOPs), meta-data repository and the establishment of а mapping between the various data collections. As for the technical goals, they refer to the development of a more coherent data collection framework to incorporate existing methods and new data collection, working towards a common storage of data. А preview of the PowerBI pilot project was given. This tool is used only internally at the moment, but with the view to expand its use externally as well.
Assessment of NFPs: all NFPs will have to be assessed by 3 July 2026. The scope of the assessment is to whether each NFP contributes to the achievement of the tasks of the Agency. Assessments may include recommendations, set a timeline for their implementation and offer support from the Agency to NFP for the purposes of capacity building. The outcome of the assessments will be shared with the MB. Whilst the length of intervals between assessments is still to be decided, the aim is to start the assessments with the countries that were not yet certified. The RTX team recommended all NFPs that have not yet completed the self-assessment questionnaire to proceed with it, in order to identify any area of improvement before the entry into force of the new regulation.

Plenary session III: Update from MS/National focal points
PT FP: А new public institute оп addictive behaviours and dependencies (ICAD) will be created (probably after March 2024) under Ministry of Health with a comprehensive mandate, including gaming and gambling. There will be also a focus on interventions. LU FP: in June 2023 a law was passed which allows to grow 4 cannabls plants per households. The fine for possession for up to 3 grams has been reduced. The FP has been highly involved in the implementation of а quantitative study on cannabls conducted in collaboration with a market and research institute. LU will also participate in ESPAD study for the first time in 2024. GR FP: the Ministry of Health has announced a reform in the field of addictions which will create a new organisation with a mandate on all addictive behaviours, merging existing institutions currently delivering services, with planning and decision-making responsibllities. The FP will not be subject to changes, whilst extra funding will be granted for the digitalization of information systems and data collection activities.

Plenary session IV: Reitox RDF & RTX Alliance
The evaluation of the RTX Development Framework will start early 2024 in order to integrate the results into the Reitox Alliance discussion. The previously used evaluation questionnaire will be revised and sent to NFPs early next year. The first results will be presented during the HNFP meeting in May and the evaluation report will be finalised by November 2024.
The Reitox Alliance document aims at replacing the “Operating Framework for the Reitox system 2003” and will be divided in two sections, one dedicated to a stable regulatory framework and a second section covering governance and working arrangements. The work of the JWG, coordinated by the RTX unit (7 NFPs volunteered) will start in January 2024 and will end in December 2025, when the document will be presented for adoption to the MB.

Plenary session V: Monitoring pillar
Feedback from the JWG on polydrug use was provided. The JWG conducted two mapping exercises to better understand the resources and experiences of MSs in the area. The first exercise focused on polydrug use in surveys, and the second on deaths caused by polydrug use. The need for more conceptualisation and enhanced analysis of data, also the need for more capacity development and research were identified. The next step of the JWG will be to prepare a draft research proposal, building on needs identified, which will support the development of the SPD 2025-2027.
EMCDDA presented an integrated monitoring framework to incorporate the new areas of the mandate. Some of the existing surveys will be expanded, such as the European Web survey on drugs and ESPAD, to allow а wider coverage. Others will be created over the next 3-4 years (EU Drugs Barometer, European University Students Drug Survey). The other existing tools (Wastewater analysis, Hair testing project) and networks will be strengthened and scaled up to increase comprehensiveness, frequency and relevance of data. A conceptual framework on drug related harm will be developed for monitoring drug-induced deaths to inform responses and preparedness in Europe. Efforts are also being made to conceptualise the extent and nature of the influence of drugs on crime (including homicides, environmental crimes). A European drug-related incidents monitoring platform will be developed to perform data collection, analysis and information sharing on drug seizures and related incidents.
Results from the quality audit of 2021 European Web-Survey оп Drugs were presented and the report will be shared with the network.

Plenary session VI: Preparedness pillar
Feedback from the JWG on preparedness was provided. The work of the JWG has focused on the European Drug Alert System (EDAS) and the main objectives were to develop a common understanding of the scope and objectives of the legislation and of methodologies, and to assess the needs of the MS, identify existing competences and capabilities, as well as available data sources in the area. A document laying the basis of the EDAS, including terminology and definitions, but also practical examples of what constitutes a serious drug related risk, has been produced. The aim is to have the EDAS established and operational as soon as the regulation will enter into force.
EMCDDA clarified that the EDAS will be complementary to the EWS and will cover a broader range of cases, allowing rapid detection, assessment of risks and information exchange and risk communication. The new mandate also provides a new threat assessment capability to the Agency. The priority is to develop SOPs to describe processes on threat assessment to allow the system to be operational from 1 July 2024.
Preparatory activities are ongoing following a roadmap for the period 2023-2025 for what regards the monitoring of drug precursors and threat assessment on the topic. The terms of reference have been developed for the network of forensic and toxicological laboratories, as well as rules and procedure for the appointment and replacement of laboratories by the MS and EUDA. Also, а mapping questionnaire has been sent to existing forensic and toxicology laboratories. So far, 60 replies have been received and are currently being evaluated.

Plenary session VII: Competence development pillar
Updates have been provided on the two JWGs that have been set up under the pillar. For the best practice, awareness raising and treatment JWG, work focused on prevention and treatment and the possibility to scale up the PLATO system to establish it as a platform of common use for the Agency and NFPs. With regard to the JWG on research, innovation and foresight, a survey was prepared for the NFPs to have a first mapping of the competencies and responsibilities of NFPs in the areas of research, innovation and foresight activities. So far, 21 responses have been received, and NFPs that have not yet submitted responses are encouraged to do so, to further help the JWG analysis of results.
The implementation of EUPC trainings will be included in the grant agreement as voluntary action for NFPs. This is a good measure as it was mentioned that resources are needed for the implementation of EUPC such as in SE where EUPC was translated but lacks the resources to further implement the training.

Plenary session VIII: Communication updates
The branding project focused on the fundamental shift that will transform a monitoring centre into an agency empowered to act. The outcome of the project was the creation of the EUDA brand guide. Following the expression of interests from the NFPs, a joint branding project will be launched, with the support of a consultant.
An update was given on the work related to the 2023 EDR, the first one in HTML format. The translations of the remaining modules have been launched, and to speed up the process of publication, it was proposed that the NFP would grant prior authorisation to publish translated modules and proofreading would be done after their publication. lt is aimed to have the EDR 2024 ready for launch by 7 June. Final launch date tbc. The procedure regarding the EDR national launches should be discussed.

Plenary session IX: Golden hour: Lisbon addictions 2024
The theme of the 2024 conference will be “Empowering the workforce of the future”. Side events will also be organised on the day before the start of the conference. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 January 2024, NFPs have been encouraged to disseminate it to their networks. Authors will be notified by end of May 2024 and the draft programme should be prepared by June 2024. Registration to the conference will be open in January 2024. ln the context of the conference, it was agreed to organised a RTX extended day during which NFPs can present on specific topics.

Plenary session Х: 2024 activities planning
RTX Academies: a summary of activities of 2023 was provided. For 2024, three academies are planned: one academy on futures and foresights, possibly in IE, in June and the second on drug checking proposed by the BE and NL NFPs and should be organised in September in NL. Finally, a RTX regional Baltic academy on innovative methods will be organised in EE, possibly in June.

The Director provided an overview of the current state of work towards the creation of EUDA. The 2024-2026 SPD and the draft 2025-2027 SPD will go for approval to the MB during the December meeting. The documents will be shared with the network.

Source: Final minutes, 69th meeting of Reitox Heads of National Focal Points, EMCDDA