Ask any participant what he thought of the Stockholm conference on Drugs and Probation, and almost certainly you will get an answer with one of the following words: ‘high-level’, ‘professional’, ‘well-organised’ etc. The congress, held from 23-25 May, also was an excellent platform for networking. Two participants look back at the conference.
Margareta Lindholm, one of the organisers of the conference, says she is very satisfied as well. “15 countries were represented, including the Baltic countries, Croatia, Hungary, so the countries that we wanted to attract”, she looks back. “In the former communist countries probation is still something relatively new. Probation organisations from these countries are very eager to build up an international network and contacts, so they can build their services on the knowledge which already exists. Fortunately, we received a subsidy of the Swedish governmental help organisation with which we could reduce the subscription fee for our Eastern European visitors. Otherwise they just wouldn’t been able to pay it.”
In fact, the conference attracted participants as far as Thailand. “They found out about the conference through the internet”, Margareta Lindholm explains. “Recently Thailand has adopted a Drug Addict Rehabilitation Act, so they were looking for best practices and want to learn from other countries.” So the outreach of the CEP seems not to be confined to the European continent.
During the workshops of the conferences, there was indeed quite a lot of information exchange between the different participants. During the plenary sessions, they could listen to various specialist speakers in the field of probation, and even to a high-ranking policy officer from the EU.
“Personally I thought the most interesting speech was delivered by Fred Nyberg from the University of Uppsala”, Margareta Lindholm comments. “He is a specialist on the reaction of the brain to drugs. Drugs work on the nerves of the brain, causing a sensation of feeling good. Frequent use of drugs damages the nerves, so the sensation of feeling good gets less intense. Nyberg discovered that the nerves in the brain can recover form this damage under the influence of growth hormone. He estimates that 40 percent of all drug users can kick the habit by using growth hormone. Is this a revolutionary break-through in helping people lose their addiction?”
Tamas Szeiberling, probation officer in charge of organising community services here in Pécs county in Hungary, was one of the visitors of the conference. He underlines the importance of networking at the conference. “In my work, I don’t have very much to do with drugs. The main thing of such a meeting for me is to meet probation officers from different countries. I feel that exchanging views with colleagues from other probation services in Europe make a lot of sense. For instance, at a previous congress I have met a probation officer from Zurich canton. Through this contact, I have received a lot of information on the community service in Switzerland and a lot of research material. I am really using this information for my work in Hungary. And now, after the conference in Stockholm, I regularly exchange information with the participant from Croatia.
“I have been to different conferences; not just from CEP, but also from other organisations and bodies. And I can say the Stockholm conference was at a very high level.”