Date: 11.01.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

VAD Advocates for Effective Substance Use Policies in 2024 Elections

In anticipation of the 2024 elections, VAD (Vereniging voor Alcohol- en andere Drugproblemen) has issued a memorandum to policymakers, advocating for impactful measures addressing substance use, gaming, and gambling.

This initiative aims to enhance health, well-being, and safety across Belgium.

Highlighting Substance Use in Belgium

The memorandum, which provides a summary of VAD’s full recommendations, reveals significant statistics on substance use in Belgium. For instance, 22.6% of Belgians have tried cannabis, 9% have used other illegal drugs, and 78% consumed alcohol in the past year. The increasing trends in gaming and the use of sleep and calming medications among youth are also addressed.

VAD emphasizes the health risks and societal costs associated with substance use. Excessive alcohol consumption, for instance, contributes to a substantial portion of the 2.3 million lost healthy life years in Belgium and leads to numerous traffic accidents. The financial burden of health costs related to alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and psychoactive medications amounts to approximately 2.49 billion euros annually, with drug-related crime and traffic accidents adding another 1.15 billion euros each year.

VAD’s Proposed Policies

VAD proposes a comprehensive approach to drug policy, encompassing prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, and support services. Their nine priority areas include:

  1. Establishing science-based and consistent legislation for alcohol, drugs, gambling, and gaming.
  2. Correcting the historical underfunding of drug prevention.
  3. Investing in diverse addiction care services.
  4. Encouraging professional development in prevention and care.
  5. Implementing a health-focused drug policy for the entire population.
  6. Focusing on vulnerable groups and risk populations.
  7. Promoting destigmatization, accessible care, and the involvement of people with lived experience.
  8. Strengthening research, evaluation, and innovation.
  9. Fostering interfederal cooperation with a focus on health and well-being.

Our Comment on the Article

VAD’s memorandum reflects a proactive and holistic approach to addressing the complex issues of substance use, gambling, and gaming in Belgium. Their comprehensive strategy emphasizes the importance of not only managing the direct health impacts but also addressing the broader social and economic consequences.

By advocating for policies that balance prevention, treatment, and harm reduction, VAD underscores the need for a nuanced and multi-faceted response to these challenges. Their focus on evidence-based legislation, destigmatization, and inclusive care highlights a progressive and empathetic approach to substance use, setting a model for effective public health policy.

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