A national focal point for research and policy makers
Always neutral and objective, the illicit drugs unit has a long track record in the field of epidemiology and cooperates with experts in several scientific disciplines. Our main assignment is twofold: as the national focal point for Belgium, appointed by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), we collect, analyse and report information about the use of illicit drugs countrywide. In addition, we develop and contribute to scientific research projects with detailed analyses of the on-going drug situation.
Networking and cooperation are the two pillars of our activities, as we collaborate with:
- other units within Sciensano, such as Health Indicators, Health Surveys or Epidemioogy of Infectious Diseases
- the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European information network on drug and drug addiction consisting of all European national focal points (Reitox)
- four regional partner organisations in Belgium, i.e. the appointed sub-focal points: the Consultation platform for Mental Healthcare (PFCSM-OPGG), the Dutch Foundation for the promotion of social-pedagogical care (BTZ), the Flemish centre of expertise on alcohol and other drugs (VAD) and the Socio-epidemiological observatory for alcohol and drugs in Wallonia and Brussels (Eurotox)
- research units and forensic and toxicological laboratories in hospitals and universities
- international institutions such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Statistics Division of the European Commission (Eurostat).
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One of the main goals of the our team is to support the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive and evidence-based drugs policy. Therefore, we develop monitoring and surveillance tools, such as nationwide surveys and health impact assessments or the registration of epidemiological data. We also provide analyses – and their interpretation – of factual, objective and reliable information about drugs and drugs addiction.
For the collection of nationwide drugs related data, we currently use of five standard epidemiological key indicators:
- drugs use in the general population
- high-risk drugs use
- drugs-related infectious diseases
- drugs-related mortality
- drugs treatment demand (TDI project)
In addition to these five key indicators, we initiate other research programs like, for instance:
- the drug market, criminality and supply reduction
- the influence of gender on addiction treatment
- the appearance of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
- the care trajectory of illicit drugs users
Thanks to a national network of forensic and toxicological laboratories and hospitals, the Belgian Early Warning System on Drugs within our unit, we also collect information about criminality on the illicit drugs market and the reduction of drug supply on the one hand, and about information on new psychoactive substances (NPS) or highly dosed and high-risk substances on the other hand.