Designer drugs are transforming how drugs are being used in Europe, a new report has revealed. While cannabis and cocaine are being consumed less, new psychoactive substances have become more popular, especially with young people, according to the latest report from the EU's drug monitoring agency. MEPs and experts discussed the latest drug trends in Europe on 27 November.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) presented its annual report at a meeting of the EP's civil liberties committee on 27 November. EMCDDA is the EU's drug monitoring agency.
According to the agency's report, cannabis remains the most widely used drug, while cocaine is the second most popular, but there are signs of falling popularity. Heroine use is in decline but it is the deadliest drug.
Last year 23 million people aged 15-64 were estimated to use cannabis in Europe, 4 million cocaine, 2 million ecstasy, another 2 million amphetamines and 1.4 million opioids.
"Legal highs" are unregulated psychoactive substances that have similar effects to controlled drugs. Manufacturers alter the chemical structure to circumvent controls.
They are widely available on the internet and are usually sold under names such as "research chemicals"; "bath salts" or "plant food". Every week a new substance appears on the market.
Wolfgang Götz, the director of EMCDDA, commented: "The drugs market is dynamic, innovative and adaptive. Wise investments are needed to combat the problem.”
How to tackle drugs
Due to the crisis, countries have difficulty finding the resources needed for dealing with drug problems
The EU's strategy for 2005-2012 was based on risk-assessment; reducing supply and demand and having an early warning system to warn each other about newly detected substances. EMCDDA says that especially the information exchange worked well.
Work has now started on the strategy for 2013-2020. It will focus on reducing demand and supply as well as improving international cooperation and research.
During the meeting on 27 November, Italian Christian Democrat MEP Salvatore Iacoliono said: "Drug addiction has to be viewed in a broader context of other addictions to tackle the problem."
German Social Democrat MEP Birgit Sippel said: "We don't necessarily need always new legislation but should coordinate our existing policies better. Focus should be on prevention."