To promote public health, the impact of any policy changes and adaptations of the legislation needs to be carefully monitored and evaluated. Therefore, Sciensano’s Unit Illicit drugs keeps track of and takes part in ongoing discussions and debates about the Belgian drug legislation.
The Belgian drug law has existed since 1921. Originally, it consisted of a nominative list of controlled substances that had to be systematically updated whenever new substances needed scheduling. Monitoring these new and emerging drugs is the task of the Belgian Early Warning System on Drugs (BEWSD) project within the Unit Illicit drugs. Because of the constant influx of these new and emerging drugs, Sciensano contributed to making adjustments to the drug legislation in order to develop a generic law (Dutch — French) in collaboration with the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) and the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC).
The rapidly evolving market of cannabis-related products raises questions on what constitutes and appropriate policy response to cannabis. These days, many diverse products are available and the way in which countries regulate these substances varies. A list with frequently asked questions related to cannabis, diverted products and medication containing THC can be consulted through the website of the FAMHP. FAMHP gives also more information about medicinal drugs on their website.
The current national drug legislation does not allow for the implementation of harm reduction initiatives such as drug consumption rooms or the administration of naloxone (Dutch — French) by non-medical professionals to reverse an opioids overdose. At the regional levels, some adjustments have been made which has resulted in the existence of different legal frameworks within the country.
The Unit Illicit drugs monitors the judicial files processed by the public prosecutor’s office and the courts. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the number of cases that are classically handled and the number of cases in which an alternative to imprisonment is provided.
The Unit Illicit drugs also provide the relevant data in order that the public expenditures related to drugs can be calculated at national level.
Consequently, the engagement of the Unit Illicit drugs is of primordial importance in order to provide the necessary data about the use and harms related to drugs during ongoing discussions and to support policy making.
Please visit our Unit Illicit drugs pagefor more information about our work on drug-related monitoring, research and support to policymakers.