Rome, 26 March(AKI)
Italy has become the second largest European market for heroin after England and one of the highest consumers of cocaine in the world, according to a report from the Italian interior ministry.
The report said more than 31 thousand kilogrammes of drugs were seized in Italy in 2007, and there had been a 43 percent increase in heroin seizures.
The incidence of synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy and methamphetamines and other pills, increased by a massive 193 percent last year, it said.
The detailed report on drug trafficking and consumption was produced by the ministry's central division of anti-drug services (DCSA).
The report said drug seizures were the highest in the northern Italian city of Milan (4,376 kilogrammes), while in the capital Rome, the figure was considerably lower (1,736 kilogrammes).
While it noted that seizures of marijuana and cocaine had dropped by 15 and 8 percent respectively in 2007, the report said cocaine use was common in Italy.
"Europe, with the US, are among the leading global markets for every type of drug, types of cocaine and heroin, while the Italian market is actually among the leading cocaine markets and the second heroin market after Britain," the report said.
The southern region of Sicily is the area with the biggest marijuana cultivation, where over 1,434 plants were seized by the authorities last year.
Across the country 589 deaths were reportedly linked to substance abuse in 2007, and over half of the victims were concentrated in the southern regions of Lazio and Campania, and the northern regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.
The report confirms the widely supported belief that most of the heroin is sourced in war-torn Afghanistan.
On a visit to Italy last week a top US drug enforcement disputed international claims that heroin production was still a serious issue in Afghanistan.
Tom Schweich, coordinator of counternarcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan told Adnkronos International (AKI) that 26 of the country's 34 provinces had stopped or were about to stop opium production, although it remained a problem elsewhere.
While visiting Rome, Schweich met with Italian law enforcement authorities to discuss judicial reform in Afghanistan as well as heroin and cocaine in the country.
Heroin production in Afghanistan reached a new high in 2007 despite global efforts to battle the menace, the International Narcotics Control Board said recently.
According to the United Nations agency, Afghanistan produced an "exceptional quantity" of opium, at 8,200 metric tonnes, 34 percent more than in 2006.
The country now accounts for 93 percent of all opiates on the global market, the report added.