Drug use remains significant challenge
Overdose deaths continue to rise for third year in a row
9 June, 2017
Over 93 million Europeans have tried an illicit drug in their lives and overdose deaths continue to rise for the third year in a row, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction (EMCDDA) reported last week. The continued availability of new psychoactive substances and the growing health threat of highly potent synthetic opioids are also among the issues highlighted by the annual 2017 overview.
"The impact of the drugs problem continues to be a significant challenge for European societies," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in a statement introducing the report.
He expressed concerns that young people are exposed to many new and dangerous drugs. Avramopoulos also stressed the need to stop huge profits from drugs ending up in the pockets of organised crime groups.
A total of 8,441 overdose deaths, mainly related to heroin and other opioids, are estimated to have occurred in Europe in 2015 (28 EU, Turkey and Norway), a 6% increase on the estimated 7,950 deaths in the 30 countries in 2014, the report alarmed. Rises in overdose deaths in 2015 are reported in Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Turkey.
New psychoactive substances (NPS) remain a considerable public health challenge in Europe. Not covered by international drug controls, they include a broad range of synthetic substances, including cannabinoids, cathinones, opioids and benzodiazepines. In 2016, 66 NPS were detected for the first time via the EU Early Warning System (EWS). By the end of 2016, the EU drug agency was monitoring more than 620 NPS (compared with around 350 in 2013).
Twenty-five new synthetic opioids were detected in Europe between 2009 and 2016. With only small volumes needed to produce many thousands of street doses, new synthetic opioids are easy to conceal and transport, posing a challenge for drug control agencies and a potentially attractive commodity for organised crime. They are found in various forms, with some now available as liquids and sold as nasal sprays.
Europe’s most commonly used illicit stimulant drugs are cocaine, MDMA (sometimes referred to as ‘ecstasy’ in tablet form) and amphetamines (amphetamine and methamphetamine). Cocaine use is higher in western and southern European countries, reflected in ports of entry and trafficking routes, while use of amphetamines is more prominent in northern and eastern Europe.
Around 17.5m European adults (15–64 years) have tried cocaine at some time in their lives. Of these, around 2.3m are young people (15–34 years) who have used the drug in the last year.
Some 87.7m European adults (15–64 years) have tried cannabis in their lifetime. An estimated 17.1m are young Europeans (15–34 years) who have used cannabis in the last year.