Health and social responses

Health and social responses to drug use aim to improve both the physical and mental health and the overall quality of life of people who use drugs.

Considering this general orientation, we can distinguish 3 types of responses , which themselves bring together different categories of facilities.


A large treatment offer is available in Belgium and can be subdivided in different categories by: 

  • Access to the modality: low threshold facilities have few or no restriction criteria to access their services, while other treatment facilities request more administrative arrangements. 
  • Type of care: psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy, abstinence oriented treatment, opioid agonist treatment (OAT), social care, etc.
  • Patient reception regime: ambulatory, short-term residential (crisis unit) or long-term residential. 
  • General orientation of the facility: on the one hand, specialised treatment facilities directly target people who use drugs. On the other hand, general mental health centres, psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric units within general hospitals welcome both people with drug-related problems and people with broader mental health issues. 

Data about people entering these types of services is highly important from an epidemiological point of view, as it provides more insight about a population that is otherwise difficult to reach.

This type of data is collected through the Treatment Demand Indicator (TDI), which registers standardised and anonymous data from a wide range of Belgian treatment centres. These variables are collected at the national level by the Unit Illicit drugs and shared with the EMCDDA to have an European overview. TDI data also enable the investigation of patient profiles and centre activities in the framework of research projects. The data registration specifically in relation of OAT happens separately from the TDI register in Belgium. Nevertheless, both registries are available for further data-analyses by the Unit Illicit drugs. 

Harm reduction initiatives 

Rather than treating problematic use, these initiatives aim at reducing the risks associated with drug consumption by promoting safer use habits and providing assistance and materials. 

Several initiatives exist in Belgium: 

  • Testing on infectious diseases, especially HIV, HCV and HBV, people who use drugs to be aware of possible infectious diseases and the treatment needed 
  • Needle exchange programs allow people who inject drugs (PWID) to obtain clean and unused hypodermic needles and associated paraphernalia at little to no cost.
  • Drug Consumption Rooms provide people who use drugs (injecting and inhaling) with a safe and hygienic environment to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of specially trained clinicians. 
  • Drug checking allows people who use drugs to have the substances they use chemically analysed, thus providing them with feedback on the purity and composition of the substance to ensuring the absence of dangerous additional products

Data about these initiatives (e.g. number and profile of the people reached) are collected by the Unit Illicit drugs in collaboration with the service providers on the field.

Prevention initiatives

These initiatives are predominantly monitored by the Unit Illicit drugs through its collaboration with the regional focal points in Flanders and Wallonia (Eurotox and VAD). They report on a regular basis data and general information about e.g. interventions in nightlife settings and the support delivered by helplines or websites (druglijn, Infor-drogues). 


Please visit our Unit Illicit drugs pagefor more information about our work on drug-related monitoring, research and support to policymakers.

Sciensano collects and analyses data on the different types of drugs, the patterns of drug use, harms, health and social responses, the drug market and the regulations and policies implemented with regard to drugs in Belgium.

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