During the past two weeks I was attending the European Drugs Summer School, which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal every summer. As described on their website “this two-week summer school prepares professionals and students to meet the complex policy challenges that face Europe in the field of drugs. Involving scientific experts from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), but also university professors and policy-makers, it provides a multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to the study of the drug problem in Europe and beyond.”
As I am still in the first year of my PhD and in the process of learning all that I can about the drug situation as part of my research I thought it would be a good idea to attend this year’s summer school. Unlike the summer schools that were offered in high school which are usually seen as a punishment, summer school at the graduate level is something worth looking forward to.
Holding true to the claims on their website, the organisers were able to bring together I nice diverse group of students made up of pharmacists, public health workers, civil servants, diplomats, researchers and PhD students such as myself. The diverse background of the group was a key to fostering the lively discussions that took place during the two-week program. Due to my own background in Criminology I naturally look at drug related issues from the perspective of policing/policy. Therefore for me one of the most beneficial parts of the summer school was to be able to get a better understanding of how drug policies and policing strategies are impacting the users on the street.
In general each day was split into two sessions with each session covering an important issue on drugs. For example in the morning session we could be learning about the different drug markets in Europe while learning about the geopolitics of drugs in the afternoon.
Many of the presentations on these topics were given by the experts working at the EMCDDA although several guest lecturers from Portugal and the UK were in attendance to give lectures on specific issues. These guest lecturers included:
- Henrique Barros (Porto University)
- Robert West (University College London)
- Owen Bowden-Jones (Imperial College London).
- João Castel-Branco Goulão (Portuguese General Directorate for the Intervention on Addictive Behavious and Dependencies)
- Catherine Moury (Lisbon University Institute)
In addition to attending lecturers we also had the opportunity to participate in several study visits. As part of these study visits we visited the EMCDDA headquarters, Taipas Treatment Centre and the famous Portuguese Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. I was particularly interested in seeing how Portugal’s progressive approach towards drugs works in practice. After seeing how their system works and speaking with people who work within the system I believe that their approach will become the norm in both North America and Europe over the coming decades.
After having read many EMCDDA publications it was really nice to get the chance to talk to the individuals who had written the publications and get answers to questions that were raised while reading these publications. For example as part of my research on the route to market of legal highs I was very curious of the type of data that Member States provide to the EMCDDA’s Early Warning System. Fortunately one of the speakers at the summer school was also the person responsible for overseeing the EMCDDA’s Early Warning System which enabled me to ask her questions about what kind of data they are provided with and how a researcher such as myself could gain access to this data.
Overall I had a very enjoyable experience at the summer school and would definitely recommend the summer school to anyone who is interested in gaining a comprehensive knowledge on all facets of the drug situation, which so profoundly affects our society.
Well that’s all for now.