Drug policies fall within states’ responsibility, leading to a variety of national action plans and strategies reflecting the diversity of situations in the different countries. To make the most of this diversity, other countries’ experiences are widely discussed and taken into account. While there is a wish to learn about different policies and strategies in Europe, language continues to be a barrier since many of the relevant documents are not translated. An ever-increasing amount of documentation on evidence-related research, guidelines, manuals and good practice inventories is now available. At the same time, a significant number of international legal and political instruments need to be taken into account when developing and implementing action plans and strategies. In addition, there are various tools developed by international governmental and non-governmental bodies. However, qualified overviews allowing policy makers quickly to identify instruments and tools relevant to their work are rare, or even non-existent. The sheer quantity of available resources has grown to the point where giving them adequate consideration is becoming impossible. Furthermore, much of the material available is targeted at professionals and rarely at those involved in policy decisions.

This policy paper aims to provide decision makers and policy managers with an overview of the basic principles, instruments and tools that will support them in developing, reviewing and implementing drug policies, strategies and action plans. It summarises key elements for coherent drug policies and effective strategies in the form of a series of guiding principles. It also lists a selection of relevant instruments, tools and resources proposed by European and international organisations (Appendix 1) and sets out a number of key observations by policy makers on existing practice (Appendix 2).

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