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Drug use in Europe is stable

Published on 07/11/2008

7 November 2008

BRUSSELS – Drugs consumption in Europe is stable or falling, but increased opium production in Afghanistan may lead to greater availability of heroin across the continent, the European Union’s drugs monitoring agency said Thursday.

"Overall, for most forms of consumption, we are not seeing major increases, and, in some areas, trends appear to be downwards," said Wolfgang Goetz, head of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The EMCDDA’s 2008 annual report shows a steady or declining use among Europeans of amphetamine and ecstasy, while there are signs that use of cannabis, the most popular illegal drug in Europe, is falling among young people in some countries.

In Germany 11.9 percent of people between 15 and 34 years old reported using cannabis in 2006, compared to 14.6 percent in 2003.

In England and Wales the number of young adults who say they consume cannabis fell from 19.6 percent in 2000 to 15.6 percent in 2006 to 2007.

The survey also confirms the growing use of cocaine, which is now consumed by some 3.5 million young Europeans each year.

The highest number of consumers of cocaine among 15 to 34 year olds is found in Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Britain and Spain, which recorded a European peak of 5.2 percent in 2006.

However, the biggest concern of the Lisbon-based agency remains heroin, which causes 8,000 deaths in Europe each year and is consumed by between 1.3 and 1.7 million people across the continent.

While "current evidence does not point to an epidemic growth in heroin problems," the EMCDDA notes a 10 percent increase in the number of seizures in Europe between 2003 and 2006.

According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in the world’s biggest supplier, Afghanistan, totalled 7,700 tonnes in 2008, only slightly down from the 2007 record production of 8,200 tonnes.

"We cannot ignore the threat posed by the glut of heroin now available on the world market," Goetz said.

[Dpa / Expatica]