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Preface PDF Print E-mail
Written by Govert Van de Wijngaart   
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 00:00


When you ask people in the world about 'Holland', they might tell you about windmills and tulips, wooden shoes and fishermen, or polders and dikes. Others might refer to Hans Brinker, Johan Cruyff, Anne Frank or Queen Beatrix, its colonial history, the sense of freedom and justice, the city of Amsterdam and - last but not least- drugs!

Dutch drug policy has been for some time the object of widespread, and mostly critical attention. Unfortunately, the criticisms have more often been based on prejudice than on fact. This book offers a comprehensive overview of past and present of the Dutch experience, contrasted with developments abroad and situated in the 'debate' between the 'deterrence' perspective - the best way to prevent the problems arising from the use of drugs is top try to eliminate their use altogether - and the 'nolimalization perspective - the problems arising from the use of drugs are not inevitable, and are intensified rather than alleviated by attempts to eliminate their use.

The book sets out to examine Dutch drug policy -how it came into being, what arguments are used to justify it, the way it works in practice, the record of its successes and failures, and the implications it may have for other courtries. On a theoretical level, it sets out to situate Dutch drug policy in the context of a debate between two opposing perspectives on drug use ('normalizing' and 'deterrence'). It attempts to provide a further elaboration of the first of these perspectives, by showing that drug use can best be understand as a human phenomenon, intelligible in terms of a given cultural and historical context, rather than as something which can be explained mechanistically and exterminated as if it were a disease.

The book is based on a number of empirical and theoretical studies concerned with drug addiction and policies directed at it, carried out over the period 1979-1990. The focus of these studies is Dutch policy in relation to drug users. Chapter  1 examines the use of narcotics and the various attitudes of governments towards them, throughout history. In Chapter 2 the origins of Dutch drug policy are traced and placed in the context of the specific development of the Dutch welfare state. The emphasis in Dutch policy on 'harm reduction' has led to a number of initiatives, many of them unique to the Netherlands concerned with the welfare of drug addicts: these initiatives, including the methadone maintenance programmes, are examined in detail in Chapters 3 and 4.

The second main aspect of Dutch policy, 'demand reduction' is -discussed in Chapter,.5 ,which reviews attempts to discourage drug abuse by passing on correct undistorted information and creating alternatives on a voluntary basis in the context of health-education programmes Chapter 6 situates current discussions on drug policy within a debate between Two opposing perspectives, presented as 'ideal types' in the Weberian sense - the 'normalizing' and 'deterrence' approaches. Finally, in Chapter 7, the current state of the debate on drugs is reviewed and the lessons of the Dutch experience for other Countries are spelled out.

This study would have been impossible without the advice, assistance and support of many persons and institutions. First of all, I am grateful to all those whose scholarly work I have been able to use in writing this book, including those whom I have criticised. More specifically I am indebted to Bruce Alexander, Eddy Engelsman, Fried van Hoof, David Ingleby and Charles Kaplan who have stimulated me by offering ideas, suggestions and comments which have improved my work to no small extent. The research has been made possible by the support of the Utrecht University. Additional funding -through generous financial support from the Netherlands Organisation for the Advancement of Pure Research (NWO) and the Stichting Volksbond Rotterdam - made specific phases of the project possible. Olivia Ingleby helped me in the painful task of fitting Dutch thoughts into English sentences. I also appreciate the help of Karin Minkema who worked diligently and with good cheer to ready the manuscript.

The text has been specially written for this book, for the greater part based on articles that have already appeared. These articles, however, are scattered among various journals and collections and are not readily accessible.


Methadone: treat or treatment. In: Proceedings of the 34th International Congress on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (pp. 314-316). Calgary, Canada: ICAA/AADAC (1985).

Heroin addiction in the Netherlands. In: A. Carmi & S. Schneider (Eds.). Drugs and alcohol (Medicolegal Library Vol. 6, pp. 64-69). Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, Tokyo: Springer Verlag (1986).

Rethinking the qualities of methadone. In: Ch.D. Kaplan & M. Kooyman (Eds.). Proceedings of the 15th International Institute on the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependence (pp. 173-179). Rotterdam: EUR/ICAA (1987).

Heroin use in the Netherlands. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 14 (1988) 1, 125-136.

A social history of drug use in the Netherlands: policy outcomes and implications. Journal of Drug Issues 18 (1988) 3, 481-495.

Utrecht: a case study. In: A. Arif & J. Westermeyer (Eds.). Methadone in the management of opioid dependence: programs and policies around the world (pp. 205-215). Geneva, Minneapolis: WHO (1988).

Methadone in the Netherlands: an evaluation. International Journal of the Addictions 23 (1988) 9, 913-925.

What lessons from the Dutch experience can be applied. British Journal of Addiction 84 (1989) 9, 990-992.

Drug abuse research and policy - a Dutch-American debate. The International Journal On Drug Policy 1 (1989) 3, 12-13.

Heroin addiction in the Netherlands. In: B. Forster & J.C. Salloway (Eds.). The socio-cultural matrix of alcohol and drug use (pp. 520-551). Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press (1990).

Rethinking methadone from a Dutch perspective. In: J. Platt, Ch. Kaplan & P. Kim (Eds.). The effectiveness of drug abuse treatment (pp. 71-84). Malabar: Krieger (1990).

The Dutch approach: normalization of drug problems. Journal of Drug Issues 20 (1990) 4, 667-678.

Methadonverabreichung und die Lage der Heroinstichtigen in den Niederlanden. Kriminologisches Journal 16 (1984) 1, 64-80 (co-author: R. Vernooy).

Drogenkonsum in den Niederlanden. Wiener Zeitschnft fiir Suchtforschung 11 (1988) 2/3, 93-101.

Consommation de drogue aux Pays-Bas. In: La prevention de la toxicomanie - un outil pour le travail social communautaire (pp. 155-170). Institut Euro-peen Interuniversitaire de l'Action Sociale 'I.E.I.A.S.' (1987).


Our valuable member Govert Van de Wijngaart has been with us since Monday, 20 December 2010.

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