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Sunday 18.03.2018 | Name days: Ilona, Adelīna

Heroin consumption declines in EU; consumption of legal drugs increases

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUHeroin consumption rates in Europe continue to decline. However, risks are further increased in the consumption rates of synthetic drugs, new psychoactive drugs (legal drugs) and abuse of medical products, as mentioned in European Union’s drug agency’s latest European Drug Report.

Europe’s drugs problem is becoming increasingly complex with new challenges emerging that raise concerns for public health. The report details an overall stable situation, with some positive signs in relation to the more established drugs. But this is counter-balanced by new threats posed by synthetic drugs, including stimulants, new psychoactive substances and medicinal products, all of which are becoming more prominent in a changing European drug market.

‘I am deeply concerned that the drugs consumed in Europe today may be even more damaging to users’ health than in the past,’ – says European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

‘Europe’s law-enforcement bodies are increasingly faced with the fact that small, easily transported packages of seemingly innocuous powders can contain many thousands of individual doses,’ – added the commissioner.

‘EMCDDA provides us with a critically important window on Europe’s evolving drugs problem. But this information must now feed into law-enforcement, prevention and treatment,’ – said Malmström.

EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz notes that progress has been made on some areas, but the situation in EU member states varies.

‘Looking at the big picture, we see that progress has been made in Europe on some of the major health policy objectives of the past. But the European perspective can obscure some important national differences. Our latest data show how encouraging overall EU trends on overdose deaths and drug-related HIV infections, for example, sit in sharp contrast to worrying developments in a few Member States,’ – said Götz.

Even though the level of global heroin production rates remains high, latest data on treatment and confiscation cases in Europe demonstrate a decline in the use and availability of this drug.

Drug use is one of the major causes of mortality among young people in Europe, both directly through overdose (drug-induced deaths) and indirectly through drug-related diseases, accidents, violence and suicide, as stated in the report. Even though the general trend in Europe is positive, some countries still experience growing mortality caused by drug overdose.

The average mortality rate due to overdoses in Europe is estimated at 17 deaths per million population (15–64 years), but with wide national variations. Rates of over 50 deaths per million were reported in five countries, with the highest rates reported in Estonia (191 per million) and Norway (76 per million), followed by Ireland (70 per million), Sweden (63 per million) and Finland (58 per million). Latvia’s rate is 12 deaths per million, Lithuania’s – 35 deaths per million.

While heroin is still involved in many fatal overdoses, deaths relating to this drug are generally falling and those linked to synthetic opioids are on the rise in some countries. Overdose deaths rose sharply (by 38%) in Estonia in 2012, with fentanyl and its derivatives present in most cases, according to the report.

Over the last decade, large gains have been made within the EU in addressing HIV infection among people who inject drugs — these include a greater coverage of prevention, treatment and harm-reduction measures.

Latest data suggests trends in some countries negatively impact the reduction of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Europe in a long-term perspective. ‘Outbreaks of HIV among drug users in Greece and Romania, together with ongoing problems in some Baltic countries, have stalled Europe’s progress in reducing the number of new drug-related HIV infections,’ – as stated in the report.

Cocaine remains the most often used drug in Europe. The majority of users of this drug live in western European countries.

Use of amphetamine and metamphetamine in Europe is below that of heroin. Amphetamine is the more commonly used of the two. Nevertheless, concerns regarding the rise of metamphetamine in Europe remain.

The EMCDDA report also outlines the emergence of new psychoactive substances (the so-called legal drugs), their distribution and availability in Europe. Over the last four years, authorities have registered 250 new substances, which adds to the already large database for 350 substances in this category.

New psychoactive substances, not controlled under international law, are often sold on the market as ‘legal highs’ and produced with the intention of mimicking the effects of controlled drugs. Twenty-nine of the drugs detected last year were synthetic cannabinoids, the largest group currently monitored by the EU–EWS. The speed at which recently controlled drugs have been replaced by new substances has prompted a variety of innovative legal responses across Europe.


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