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Changes in the supply and use of established drugs, sophisticated cocaine smuggling techniques, changes in the stimulant market and widespread domestic cannabis production are some of the challenges described in the EMCDDA annual report.
Increasingly sophisticated techniques are used smuggle cocaine into Europe. One such technique involves incorporating cocaine into carrier materials (e.g. beeswax, plastic, clothing, fertiliser) before export, then extracting it in seemingly legitimate laboratories set up inside EU borders. 25 of these laboratories were uncovered in the EU in 2008,according to the report.
A rise in deaths associated with cocaine use is an additional concern. Around 1 000 cocaine-related deaths are now reported annually in Europe. In the UK, the number of death certificates mentioning cocaine doubled between 2003 (161) and 2008 (325). In 2008, around 70 000 people entered drug treatment for cocaine problems in 27 European countries. This equals around 17 % of all new drug treatment clients.
- Too many Europeans still regard cocaine use as a relatively harmless accompaniment to a successful lifestyle.But we are progressively seeing that, as cocaine consumption increases, so too does its impact on public health. A message we must convey is that, not only can use of this drug escalate quickly, but it can also result in fatalities, even when intake is occasional and doses are low, says EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz.
Some 14 million European adults (15–64 years) have tried cocaine in their lifetime, around 4 million having used it in the last year. Cocaine use disproportionately affects a small number of western EU countries, where levels of use are high. Elsewhere in Europe, use remains low:
There were an estimated 96 300 cocaine seizures in Europe in 2008. While seizures remain low in central and eastern Europe, they more than doubled in 10 countries there between 2003 (469 seizures) and 2008 (1 212). This could suggest that cocaine trafficking and availability in the region may be on the rise.
Use of amphetamines (amphetamine or methamphetamine) remains overall lower than that of cocaine in Europe, with consumption trends still stable. But in many countries, amphetamine substances remains the most commonly used stimulant drug. Around 12 million Europeans (15–64 years) have tried amphetamines in their lifetime, around 2 million in the last year.
According to the Annual report, problem amphetamine use is mainly reported by countries in the north of Europe and accounts for a sizeable proportion of those entering treatment in Sweden (32 %), Finland (20 %) and Latvia (15 %). Quantities of amphetamine seized in Europe have increased steadily in recent years (2003–08), reaching 8.3 tonnes in 2008.
Problem methamphetamine use remains limited in Europe and largely restricted to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. But the drug appears to be becoming more available in parts of northern Europe (e.g. Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Finland), where it may be being sold as a replacement for amphetamine. Seizures of methamphetamine in Europe have increased in recent years (2003–08). In 2008, 4 700 seizures of the drug were made, amounting to 300 kg.
Trends in ecstasy use in Europe are generally stable. Around 11 million Europeans have tried ecstasy, around 2.5 million having used it in the last year. Seizures of ecstasy tablets are estimated to have declined by 14 % to 13.7 million tablets in 2008 (compared to 2007 data).
Table on the right shows trends in last year prevalence of cannabis use among young adults (aged 15–34):
Levels of cannabis use appear to be rising in some countries of eastern Europe, in some cases now rivalling or exceeding prevalence levels found in parts of western Europe. In eastern EU Member States, the highest levels of last-year cannabis use among young adults (15–34 years) were in the Czech Republic (28.2 %), Slovakia (14.7 %) and Estonia (13.6 %). In western countries, the highest prevalence was reported in Italy (20.3 %), SpainFrance (16.7 %). Levels of use differ greatly between countries, with the highest prevalence estimate of last-year use among young adults (Czech Republic 28.2 %) being over 30 times greater than the lowest (Romania 0.9 %).
Among young adults (15–34 years) who report using cannabis in the last year, three major trends are observed for the period 1998–2008 :
Data from the European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs (ESPAD) show similar divergence in time trends in cannabis use among 15- to 16-year old school students (1995–2007)
Europe’s appetite for cannabis is reflected in annual seizures of around 1 000 tonnes of the drug The number of seizures of cannabis plants has increased since 2003, reaching an estimated 19 000 seizures in 2008.
Around 75.5 million Europeans — one in five adults aged 15–64 years — have tried cannabis in their lifetime, around 23 million of them having used it in the last year. Some 4 million Europeans are estimated to be daily or almost daily users. Around one fifth (21 %) of clients entering specialised drug treatment report cannabis as their main problem drug (around 85 000 clients).
Read the full report here:
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