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Dutch Drug Policy and the Role of Social Workers (From International Aspects of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, P 49-68, 2002, Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner, and Larry Harrison, eds., -- See NCJ-202141)

NCJ Number
Peter de Koning; Alex de Kwant
Date Published
20 pages
This article examines Dutch drug policy and its implications for social workers.
From its inception in the 1970’s, Dutch drug policy has been delineated based on “soft” versus “hard” drugs. The use and small-scale sale of the soft drugs, such as marijuana, was accepted as a given within Dutch society, while the use of hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, was met with policies aimed at harm reduction. This type of lenient and pragmatic approach to drug control was met with international criticism, most notably from the United States. The article discusses the unintended consequences of Dutch drug policy, including the fact that it neglected to treat and rehabilitate serious addicts. The article then turns to an overview of the criminal justice system response to drug problems. To punctuate the problems facing the criminal justice system, the article presents two case studies of drug-involved offenders. The criminal justice system was ill-equipped to handle hard-core criminal drug addicts until various proposals were made in the 1990’s. Since 2001, judges have been able to sentence drug-addicted offenders to a compulsory diversion program, the goal of which is to treat and rehabilitate drug-addicted offenders. The article next discusses changes in health care initiatives regarding drug treatment, including dispensing heroin prescriptions for long-term heroin addicts. The use of user-friendly places to use drugs, local-care networks, and housing for elderly drug addicts are also explored as part of the Dutch drug policy. Finally, the articles discusses the marginalized role of social workers in the treatment of substance abuse. Although historically marginalized, social workers are beginning to play a more prominent role in the Dutch addiction programs. In conclusion, the authors assert that social workers will make their biggest contribution by motivating drug addicts to have the desire to change. References