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    Rates of cocaine use have started to decline across Europe, according to the 2011 annual report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

    The countries with the most significant cocaine problems – Spain, Italy, Denmark and the UK – all reported a fall in ‘last-year’ use among 15 to 34-year-olds, mirroring similar trends in the US and Canada. The UK, however, remains the European country with the highest rate of use among this age group.

    With an average price of between 50 and 80 Euros per gram, regular cocaine use may have become a ‘less attractive option in countries where austerity is now the order of the day’, says the EMCDDA, although the drug remains the continent’s most widely used illicit stimulant, with around 17 per cent of those entering treatment reporting it as their main problem substance.

    Levels of heroin use have remained largely unchanged, although there are still more than 1.3m regular opioid users in the EU and Norway. Clients in treatment are generally older, however, and the proportion reporting injecting is also declining in most countries, with just 40 per cent of those entering treatment for opioid problems regular injectors. Around 700,000 opioid users received substitution treatment in Europe in 2009, 50,000 more than in 2007, although coverage continues to vary greatly. Worryingly, however, Greece – traditionally a country with a low HIV prevalence – has reported a significant outbreak of new HIV infections among injecting drug users.

    Although drug use as a whole appears to be ‘relatively stable’ across Europe, and cannabis use continues to decline among young people, there are ‘new threats’ from the rapidly evolving synthetic drugs market, and widespread polydrug use, says the report, adding that European drug policies and responses will need to adapt accordingly.

    Thirty-nine new drugs have been reported so far this year via the European early warning system (EWS), on top of the 41 new substances notified to the EMCDDA and Europol last year (DDN, June, page 5). Drug manufacturers are also playing ‘cat-and-mouse’ with the authorities in terms of the imported precursor chemicals used to synthesise the drugs, the report states, using increasingly sophisticated techniques to bypass regulations. These include synthesising precursors from ‘pre-precursors’ or masking them as non-controlled chemicals, which are then reconverted after importation.

    ‘The fast moving and increasingly joined-up world we live in is mirrored by an increasingly fast moving and joined-up drug market which appears quick to adapt to both threats and opportunities’, said EMCDDA director Wolfgang Götz. ‘This is reflected not only in the sheer number of new substances appearing on the market, but also in their diversity and in how they are produced, distributed and marketed. We need a proactive strategy that allows us to rapidly identify new drugs and emerging trends so that we can anticipate their potential implications. We also need to coordinate our responses across Europe as, without doing so, individual national efforts are likely to prove ineffective. These two factors are crucial if we are to stay ahead in this rapidly developing game of cat and mouse’.

    16 November 2011



    Comment: these were already uploaded to DF

    EMCDDA - National report 2010: Spain

    EMCDDA - National report 2010: Netherlands

    EMCDDA - National report 2010: United Kingdom

    EMCDDA - National report 2010: Portugal

    All documents are written in english language.


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