Pubdate: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: News Limited 2000
Author: Joost Dirkzwager


DOCTORS Fleming and Pike are using information from the European Monitoring 
Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction to claim that Dutch drug policy leads 
to some unpalatable consequences (Letters, 17/4).

However, their reading of the available statistical information does not do 
sufficient justice to the results of our approach.

Most importantly, drug-related deaths in The Netherlands are extremely low 
when compared with our European partners such as France, German, Italy, 
Spain and the United Kingdom.

In 1997, 65 people died of drug-related causes in a population of 15.5 
million people. In Australia, with a slightly higher population, the 
corresponding number is more than 650.

While the definition of what constitutes drug-related death may differ from 
country to country, we are confident that our policy of treating addicts as 
patients rather than as criminals is a major factor in achieving this low 

Contrary to the suggestion made, cocaine use in The Netherlands is lower 
than, for example, in the UK, Denmark and Italy (annual report EMCDDA, 1999).

Also, the statement that HIV and hepatitis C infection rates are among the 
highest does not stand up to scrutiny. Only Finland, Greece and Sweden have 
a lower HIV prevalence, while the figure for hepatitis C prevalence (which 
is dependent on many factors) is comparable to most European countries.

Finally, since 1976 we have been successful in keeping the number of heroin 
addicts in The Netherlands at a constant level of 25,000 to 28,000 persons, 
despite an increase in our population of 12 per cent and an increase in 
drug abuse worldwide.

While we do not pretend that we have solutions for all aspects of the drug 
problem, we are confident that a careful study of the available statistical 
material will show that our drug policy does deliver tangible results.

Joost Dirkzwager Charge d'Affaires The Netherlands Yarralumla, ACT
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