Page last updated June 9, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

6. Drug Arrest Trends in Switzerland

"Total drug arrests increased substantially in the 1990s and rose slightly in this decade. There was a large decline in heroin arrests (from 18,000 in 1997 to 6500 in 2006), compensated for by an increase in cannabis arrests. About 80 percent of arrests are for possession rather than dealing. Switzerland makes more arrests (per capita) for simple possession of cannabis than even the United States; comparative figures for a number of countries are provided in Figure S2. However at the other end of the criminal justice system, small numbers are sentenced to incarceration; out of roughly 40,000 persons arrested each year for drug violations, fewer than 2,000 receive terms of incarceration. Moreover the total number of convictions and incarcerations for drug offenses has hardly changed over the period 1990-2006, Fewer than one quarter of those sentenced receive terms as long as eighteen months. The majority of arrests are for possession of cannabis and result in fines of 250-300 CHF; these are not even recorded as convictions."

Reuter, Peter and Schnoz, Domenic, "Assessing Drug Problems and Policies in Switzerland, 1998-2007," Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (Bern, Switzerland: November 16, 2009), p. 10.

7. Trends in Drug-Related Mortality and Injection-Related HIV in Switzerland

"Drug-related deaths, most of which are a consequence of heroin dependence, have declined since the early 1990s, from 350-400 per annum to 150-200 per annum in this decade. HIV infections related to injecting drug use have also declined. This may reflect a modest decline in injecting, as opposed to smoking or snorting, of heroin, a decline in needle sharing among users because of Syringe Exchange Programs and the lower population of heroin dependent users."

Reuter, Peter and Schnoz, Domenic, "Assessing Drug Problems and Policies in Switzerland, 1998-2007," Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (Bern, Switzerland: November 16, 2009), p. 8.

8. Success of Swiss Four Pillars Drug Strategy

"Switzerland’s progressive implementation of the Four Pillars policy resulted in a significant decrease in problems related to drug consumption. The rise in heroin consumption, by far the greatest problem in the late 1980s, was halted and has steadily declined since the early 1990s. According to The Lancet, the The introduction of the Four Pillars strategy also brought about a significant reduction of deaths directly attributable to drug use, such as overdose (OD), and of deaths indirectly related, such as HIV and Hepatitis. Between 1991 and 2004, the drug related death toll fell by more than 50% (See figure 3). Additionally, levels of drug-related HIV infection were divided by eight within ten years."

Savary, Jean-Félix; Hallam, Chris; and Bewley-Taylor, Dave, "The Swiss Four Pillars Policy: An Evolution From Local Experimentation to Federal Law," The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme (Beckley Park, Oxfordshire, UK: May 2009), p. 5.

9. Effectiveness and Benefits of Supervised Consumption Facilities

"Generally speaking, it is reasonable to conclude, on the basis of the available knowledge, that to a large extent DCFs [Drug Consumption Facilities] achieve the objectives set for them, and that the criticisms made of them are rarely justified. In fact, DCFs help to:
"• reduce risk behaviour likely to lead to the transmission of infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, among the population of the worst affected drug users;
"• reduce the incidence of fatal overdoses and, therefore, the mortality rate in this population;
"• establish and maintain contact between this population and the social-service and health-care network, within which low-threshold facilities (LTFs) are often the First point of access because of the care and social assistance they offer;
"• reduce public order problems, particularly by doing away with open drug scenes, reducing drug use in public places, recovering used syringes, and reducing the impact of drug problems on residential areas (apartment buildings).
"At the same time, the available data do not indicate any specific detrimental effect on:
"• the number of drug users and the frequency with which they use drugs; the figures are falling in both cases;
"• entry and retention in treatment, because the majority of DCF users are undergoing treatment, the proportion of those in treatment is growing, this subject is tackled within the facilities, and the users themselves state that DCFs do not have any major influence on their treatment.
"All of these observations relate to the overall level of public health and do not mean that DCFs may not have negative effects in some individual cases. However, on the basis of existing knowledge, it would appear that the overall effect of DCFs on drug-related problems is positive."

Zobel, Frank & Françoise Dubois-Arber, "Short appraisal of the role and usefulness of Drug consumption facilities (DCF) in the reduction of drug-related problems in Switzerland: appraisal produced at the request of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (Lausanne: University Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, 2004), p. 27.

10. Swiss National Drugs Policy and "Four Pillar Model"

"The vision towards which the federal government is directing its efforts is a reduction in drug-related problems in Switzerland. This vision is to be implemented by achieving three goals:
"– reducing the consumption of drugs
"– reducing the negative consequences for drug users
"– reducing the negative consequences for society as a whole.
"In implementing its drugs policy the federal government will continue to base its global strategy on the four pillar model:
"– Prevention helps to reduce drug consumption by making it harder to start using drugs and by preventing the development of addiction.
"– Therapy helps to reduce drug consumption by enabling users to break free of their dependency and to stay free of it, or at least by keeping this option open to them. In addition it promotes the social integration of those under treatment and helps to improve their health.
"– Harm reduction helps to reduce the negative consequences of drug use on the consumer and indirectly on society as well, by providing individually tailored and socially less problematic ways of consuming drugs.
"– Law enforcement uses appropriate regulatory measures to implement the prohibition of illegal drugs, thus helping to reduce the negative consequences of drug taking for society as a whole."

Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, "Switzerland’s National Drugs Policy: The federal government’s third package of measures to reduce drug-related problems (MaPaDro III) 2006?2011," p. 6.