Sweden and Holland – two drug policy models

Dolf Tops

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


It is a well known fact that since the 1960s, Sweden and Holland have developed completely
different types of drug policy. But there are a number of misconceptions as to what the
differences consist in and how they have arisen. My contribution to this anthology involves
elucidating these differences.
In the context of international discussions of drug policy, the policies followed by Sweden
and Holland are regarded as being completely antithetical. Swedish policy is described as
restrictive, meaning that measures are directed at preventing the population coming into
contact with illegal narcotic substances. The basic assumption is that all non-medical use of
drugs constitutes abuse. The underlying motive is that this is done for the people’s best and
that it is the job of the state to shield the population from danger. Dutch policy is described as
liberal, i.e. the state should not interfere in people’s private lives as long as this does not cause
injury to a third party. This also extends to behaviours regarded by the majority as
undesirable, e.g. illegal drug use. In the following, I will be restricting myself to what I regard
as the essential elements that distinguish the two countries’ drug policies from one another.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearchers on Swedish Drug Policy
EditorsHenrik Tham
PublisherStockholm University, Department of Criminology
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work


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