last updated 1999

Drug Policy and Crime Statistics

Recent accounts in the U.S. press about the Netherlands drug policy have included incorrect and misleading statistics about drug use and drug-related crimes in the Netherlands.  What follows is a short list of facts and comparisons to refute those accounts.  Sources are given to permit and encourage third party verification of facts. 

Last month use of cannabis (marijuana) by high school seniors
18.1%  in the Netherlands (1996); 
23.7% in the U.S. (1997). 
(Sources: The Trimbos Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Monitoring the Future Survey, University of Michigan and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) 

Any lifetime use (prevalence) of cannabis by older teens (1994)
30% in the Netherlands; 
38% in the U.S. 
(Sources: Center for Drug Research, University of Amsterdam; Monitoring the Future Survey, University of Michigan and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) 

Recent (last month) use of cannabis by 15 year olds (in 1995)
15% in the Netherlands; 
16% in the U.S.; 
24% in the U.K. 
(Sources: Trimbos Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Monitoring the Future Survey, University of Michigan and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Council of Europe, ESPAD Report) 

Any lifetime use of cannabis by 15 year olds (in 1995)
29% in the Netherlands; 
34% in the U.S.; 
41% in the U.K. 
(Sources: Netherlands Institute of Health and Addiction, U.S. National Institute for Drug Abuse; Council of Europe, ESPAD Report) 

Heroine addicts as a percentage of population (in 1995)
160 per 100,000 in the Netherlands; 
430 per 100,000 in the U.S. 
(Sources: Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; 
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) 

Murder rate as a percentage of population (in 1996)
1.8 per 100,000 in the Netherlands; 
8.22 in the U.S. 
(Sources: Netherlands Bureau of Statistics; White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) 

Incarceration rate as a percentage of population (1997)
73 per 100,000 in the Netherlands; 
645 per 100,000 in the U.S. 
(Sources: Netherlands Ministry of Justice; White House Office of National Drug Control Strategy) 

Crime-related deaths as a percentage of population: 
1.2 per 100,000 in the Netherlands (1994); 
8.2 per 100,000 in the U.S. (1995). 
(Sources: World Health Organization; Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation) 

Per capita spending on drug-related law enforcement
$27 per capita in the Netherlands; 
$81 per capita in the U.S. 
 (Sources: Netherlands Ministry of Justice; White House Office of National Drug Control Strategy) 

The Netherlands

Statistical estimates of users;

Reliable estimates for 1991 put the number of heroin dependant persons at approximately 22.000, with stabilisation of the overall problems but an increase in socio-economically disadvantaged populations. The average age of dependant persons is rising anually and is reported to be 33 years in 1992. The use of cannabis has stabilised until 1992 when a slight rise was reported and seems to be in correspondance with the figures in neighbouring countries. The use of XTC (MDMA) and analogue substances has increased during recent years due to the popularity of the so called "house parties". The number of drug deaths reported in 1989 is 52;

Legal aspects;

There is a clear-cut distinction, in the text of the law but even stronger in the philosophy behind it, between drug users and traffickers, in order to avoid classifying the possession of drugs by users as a serious crime and to allow easy acces to prevention and voluntary interventions. As a consequence of prosecution policy, no special action is taken by the police to detect offences involving possession of drugs for personal use except in practice in the course of finding evidence against drug dealers or in cases of public order disturbances. The possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis is an offence in the Netherlands, where possesion of larger amounts is a crime with a proportionally increasing priority in prosecution policy. Through "creative" use of prosecution guidelines retail cannabis-trade in so called coffeeshops is tolerated when the following standards are met: no sale to persons under 16 years of age; no advertising; no hard drugs; no wholesale and no public disturbances. There are no prohibitive legal restrictions on the distribution of methadone in addiction treatment or the sale and free distribution of syringes. All medical treatment takes place within the framework of the ordinary legislation concerning medical practice. For drug addicts committing drug related crimes the Criminal Code provides different measures to divert the suspects or convicts from the prison to the treatment system;

Competence and funding;

Drug policy is defined at national level in close cooperation between the Ministry of Welfare, Health and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. All aid and treatment facilities - except for methadone programmes of some municipal health services - are autonomous non-governmental institutions. The medical consultation bureaux for alcohol and drug problems with a multidisciplinary orientation had a total budget of 34 million ECU for 1990; the budget for social welfare services directed to drug users was 23.6 million in 1990 and the budget of the methadone programmes of municipal health services was approximately 3 million ECU. About 95% of the funds is dependent on the Ministry of Welfare, Health and Cultural affairs that distributes these funds among the major municipalities. Residential treatment facilities are financed by the public health insurance funds (43 million ECU). The Ministry of Welfare, Health and Cultural Affairs provides ECU 2,5 million for AIDS prevention among drug users and 1,7 million for specialised national residential treatment facilities and experimental projects. The total cost of addiction treatment and prevention is approximately 107 million ECU. These costs include treatment for alcohol dependency. A major decentralisation operation has taken place as a consequence of the change in the financial structure of Addiction Care. The major 23 municipalties are responsible for the development of ambulatory treatment and prevention policy. The 12 provinces are responsible for hospital based treatment services in residential addiction clinics;

Prevention and treatment;

Drug prevention is part of general health education in schools as well as prevention programmes in the field of youth, mental health and social welfare. Specific drug information campaigns are found to be effective only with specific risk-groups; therefore mass-media campaigns are not found to be appropriate. On the basis of local risk assessments emphasis is given to substance abuse in general, specific licit or illicit substances, primary or secondary prevention. The Netherlands has the following principles for the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts: a multifunctional network of medical and social services built up at local or regional level; easily accessible aid; the maximum use of unspecific services and the promotion of social rehabilitation of present and former drug abusers. The regional networks include; non-residential services (field work, social counselling, therapy, methadone supply and rehabilitation); semi-residential services (day/night centres, day-care treatment, employment and recreation) and residential services (crises and detoxification drug dependence units and therapeutic communities). In this network there are forms of assistance not primarily intended to end drug addiction, but geared to harm reduction: field work, initial reception, supply of substitute drugs, material support and oppurtunities for social rehabilitation. The AIDS prevention measures provide for information on safe sex and safer drug use, offer new-for-old syringes exchange schemes and free distribution of condoms. Treatment for problematic drug users is largely on voluntary basis in The Netherlands. This statement should however be modified a bit when we consider how this voluntariness often is produced. In criminal cases against drug users for drug-related crimes the willingness of suspects to kick the habit of drugtaking usually has a positive effect on limiting the harshness of the sentence. This willingness can be shown already during the period of preventive detention before trial. Netherlands Alcohol and Drugs Reports (fact sheets)
Fact Sheet 7 Cannabis policy Update
Fact Sheet 2 : Hard drugs policy : opiates
Fact Sheet 3 : Hard drugs policy : XTC
Fact Sheet 4 : Addiction Care & Assistance
Fact Sheet 5 : Education prevention policy alcohol and drugs
Fact Sheet 6 : Drugs Nuisance policy

Source:©Trimbos Institute

Government, Treatment & Research Institutions in the Drug Field

Ministery of Public Health, Welfare and Sports

Jellinek addiction treatment, prevention and consultancy
IVV organization information systems on addiction care and treatment
Cedro university of amsterdam centre for drug research
CVO/ARI university of utrecht addiction research institute
Trimbos institute for public health and addiction care
Mainline streetcornerwork, magazine, leaflets and flyers
Zeestraat Center The Hague

Information by city


© mario lap, stichting drugtext