The 2010 Report on Drug Addictions, presented a few weeks ago to the Italian Parliament by Mr Berlusconi's Drug Czar Carlo Giovanardi, contains data that have triggered hot debates, and ironical comments. The number of people who use drugs, says the Report, went down by 25% between 2008 and 2009, while the lifetime prevalence of cannabis use would have fallen from 32 to 22%. these results are in sharp contrast with the experience of most professionals working in the drug policy field.
The data for 2008 and for 2009 were collected by different research groups, while some sections of the inquiry (for example the one concerning 15 to 19 years-old individuals in schools), were conducted through different methods. This difference in methodology makes it difficult to understand whether numbers were overestimated during the 2008 inquiry, or an underestimated during the 2009 one - or both. In spite of these issues, Mr Giovanardi, supported by Mr Berlusconi, declared that the merit of such a "success" belonged to the Italian drug policy, harsh and prohibitionist. He added that the economic crisis might have helped achieve these results, by reducing the amount of cash drug users could spend on the black market.
Other data in the Report appear to be more reliable, but also more alarming. For example, the increase in the prevalence of alcohol, psychostimulant and poly-drug use was also reported by professionals working in the drugs field. Similarly, the proportion of prison inmates with drug problems remains stable at about 30% of the overall prison population.
Finally, it is worth noting that increasing amounts of public resources have reportedly been misused for political-ideological purposes, while the financial resources invested to tackle drug-related health and social problems has remained low.