EU drugs agency releases new analysis of Europe's changing drug problem

Photo: UNODC23 November 2011 - The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) recently released its annual report for 2011, which shows that drug abuse is relatively stable in Europe; there are some positive signs that cocaine abuse may have peaked and that cannabis abuse continues to decline among young people.

However, signs of stability with respect to some of the more "established" drugs are offset by new threats. The report explores developments in the synthetic drugs market, the rapid appearance of new substances and widespread polydrug abuse. Delivering the agency's annual assessment, EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz said: "Europe's drug policies and responses must now be configured to face the challenges of the next decade."

UNODC and EMCDDA are collaborating on technical issues such as the development of standards for the assessment of drug-related issues and consistency in data collection.

Speaking in Vienna, UNODC Deputy Executive Director Sandeep Chawla said: "EMCDDA gives an important input to knowledge on world drug markets. It also assists in the coordination of national monitoring systems in the European region and contributes to processes where international standards in data collection are developed. We look forward to further collaboration with the Centre in exchanging information and expertise."

The EMCDDA annual report highlights that heroin abuse continues to account for the largest share of drug-related diseases and deaths in the European Union region, while levels of regular opioid abuse are relatively stable. It also highlights developments in the heroin market and new concerns over the potential for HIV outbreaks among drug injectors, particularly those in marginalized communities.

The report shows that drug abuse by injection is on the decline. People who inject drugs are among those at the highest risk of experiencing health problems related to their drug abuse, such as blood-borne infections (e.g. HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C) and overdoses. In most European countries, injection is mainly associated with opioid abuse, although, in a few of those countries, it is associated with the use of amphetamines.

There is rising concern over synthetic opioids. Most of those substances are used in medical practice, as pain relievers or as substitution drugs in the treatment of heroin dependence. The report underlines the lack of information and the need for increased monitoring on the misuse of such products in Europe, and expresses concern over reports of the abuse of synthetic opioids produced illicitly.

The report gives a new analysis of the supply of heroin to Europe, analyses the trends in deaths due to drug overdose, the risk of HIV outbreaks among persons who abuse drugs by injection, treatment costs and quality assurance through the use of guidelines and the situation regarding substitution treatment in Europe.

For more information on the 2011 EMCDDA Annual Report, click here.

Related information:

World Drug Report 2011