What are the main findings of this report?
It is estimated that almost a quarter of the adult population in the European
Union have tried illicit drugs at some point in their lives and that almost 1 %
of European adults are regular (daily or almost daily)
Opioid drugs cause the most deaths, in
the range of 10 000 and 20 000 per year, drug overdose being the main cause of
death. Overall, opioid users are at least 10 times more likely to die than their
peers of the same age and gender. However, the view of the public health
consequences related not just to new psychoactive substances but, more
generally, to contemporary drug consumption patterns remains limited.
HIV-related mortality is one of the best
documented indirect causes of death among drug users.
The European drug markets continue to change and evolve rapidly : in 2014,
over a hundred new psychoactive substances were detected.
Health and social responses include a wide range of efforts established for
illicit substances, from drug education and training activities, to user-led
consumer protection interventions on the Internet.
What is the situation of cannabis use?
Two main cannabis products are found on
the European drugs market: herbal cannabis (marijuana) and cannabis resin
(hashish). In addition of those, there has been a recent emergence in recent
years of over 130 different synthetic cannabinoid products manufactured in China
that have added a new dimension to the cannabis market. These chemicals are
typically added to plant material and packaged for sale as ‘legal high’ products
and increasing cases of acute health problems are associated with these
high-potency cannabis products. There is an increase in the number of treatment
demands for cannabis-related problems and the evidence also supports
Considerable diversity exists between countries in sentencing practices for
cannabis-related supply offences,
and cannabis is the most commonly seized drug accounting for 80 % of seizures
with an increased involvement of organised crime. In Europe, discussion on
cannabis remains largely focused on the potential health costs associated with
What about the cases of heroin and cocaïne uses?
is the most common opioid on the
European drug market even if there is an overall stagnation in demand. Problems
related to heroin still account for a large share of the drug-related health and
social costs in Europe, although recent trends in this area have been relatively
positive. Worryingly, 14 new synthetic
opioids have been reported since 2005 and
in some countries where purity increases have been observed ; overdose deaths
have also increased in recent data.
In terms of treatment, the long-term picture shows clear improvement overall
and illustrates the impact that providing the appropriate services can have.
Formulating effective responses to reduce overdose deaths remains a key policy
challenge in Europe. Other challenges include the misuse of benzodiazepines in
combination with opioids, the relatively
high rates of hepatitis C
infection, and adapting to an
, in Europe, is available in two forms produced almost exclusively in
Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, the most common of which is cocaine powder, and less
commonly available is crack cocaine, a smokeable form of the drug. Decreases in
cocaine use are observable in the most recent data. Meanwhile, over 800 deaths
associated with cocaine use were reported in the European Union in 2013.
What is the situation for amphetamines, ecstasy and other stimulants like GHB?
- The quantity of amphetamine seized increased in 2013
after a period of relative stability. Acute effects linked to amphetamines use
include cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological and mental health problems.
- Ecstasy tablets have historically been the main MDMA
(3,4-méthylenedioxy-methamphetamine) product on the market. Problems associated
with use of this drug include acute hyperthermia, increased heart rate and
multi-organ failure, and long-term use has been linked with liver and heart
- Synthetic cathinones, first introduced as new
psychoactive substances often interchangeably with, other stimulants are not
controlled under drug laws and have become a fixture on the illicit drug market
in some European countries.
- LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, ketaminea and GHB are
among the other psychoactive substances with hallucinogenic, anaesthetic and
depressant properties presenting health problems including damage to the
bladder. Loss of consciousness, withdrawal syndrome and dependence are specific
risks linked to use of GHB2.
Are there new developments on the drug market?
Public and policy concern about the use of new psychoactive substances has
grown considerably in a short time. While the use of new psychoactive substances
appears to be limited overall, the pace of emergence of both the variety and the
quantity of new drugs identified on the drug market continue to increase.
In 2014, 101 new psychoactive substances were detected for the first time,
mainly synthetic cannabinoids, stimulants,
opioids that mirror the effects of
The purity and consecutive potency (expressed as the level of the
tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in the case of
cannabis) of all the most commonly used
drugs in Europe is increasing, possibly for both technical innovation and market
competition reasons. Very high purity MDMA products in particular are worrying,
making it more attractive to consumers, and an alert warning of health risks has
been issued. An unprecedented formal risk
assessments of six of these new drugs were conducted in 2014 showing
the importance of keeping a focus on the substances that may cause particular
The internet is playing an increasing role on the drug market. Drugs are being
offered online, experiences are shared through social media, but increasingly
health services are also offering information and help online.
Is the combination of sexual and drug risk-taking behaviour a growing area of concern?
HIV-related mortality is one of the best
documented indirect causes of death among drug users. The most recent estimate
suggests that about 1 700 people died of HIV/AIDS attributable to injecting drug
use in Europe in 2010, but this number is decreasing each year. In some large
European cities, concerns exist about the spread of stimulant injection among
small groups of men who have sex with men. Practices involving the so-called
slamming of methamphetamine, cathinones and other substances in the context of
‘chem-sex’ parties have implications for both HIV transmission and sexual health
services. This phenomenon highlights a need for joined-up responses in this
What is done to improve the fight against illicit drug uses?
The prevention of drug use and drug-related problems among young people is one
of the pillars of the European Drugs Strategy 2013–20. National strategies and
action plans that cover both licit and illicit drugs have been adopted by eight
countries. Increasingly, however, more attention is being paid to the
development of targeted education and prevention activities, as well as training
and awareness raising activities for professionals. The Internet is also
increasingly important as a platform for the provision of information and
Targeted interventions should facilitate access to treatment and ensure that
the needs of different groups are met in particuar young drug users, those
referred from the criminal justice system and pregnant women. In 2013, an
estimated 700 000 opioid users received
substitution treatment in the European Union.
Targeted programmes for users of other vulnerable demographics, such as
homeless, older, or LGBTQ people were less frequently available, despite many
countries reporting that there was a need for this kind of provision.
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