In line with the findings of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, in its annual progress report last month, the European drug agency on Thursday cited Turkey as lacking in drug treatment programs.
The Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) warned on Thursday in its annual drug report that Turkey's national drug action plan is set to expire by the end of this year. The report, also published in Turkish, praised the number of seizures of illegal drugs in Turkey but criticized the lack of substantive programs addressing the treatment of drug addicts in the country.
The European drug agency acknowledges that Turkey is sitting in a very difficult place. The country has been impacted by three main heroin trafficking routes -- namely the Balkan route, the northern (Black Sea) route and an eastern Mediterranean route. Cocaine comes to Turkey from South America, cannabis comes to Turkey from Lebanon, Albania and Afghanistan and Turkey acts as a transit route for opium and its derivates originating from Afghanistan en route to Western Europe. It also acts as a transit route for captagon tablets from Eastern Europe en route to countries in the Middle East.
Turkey blocks supply routes
The amount of drugs seized in Turkey is substantial when compared to the volume seized in EU member states. It acts as a barrier to drug suppliers operating in the East targeting the European market. While Turkey reported a five-fold increase in the quantity of heroin seized between 2002 and 2007, the amount seized in the EU has shown an overall decline during this period, albeit with an increase from 2006 to 2007.
In Europe, an estimated 58,000 seizures resulted in the interception of 22 tons of heroin in 2007. Turkey again reported the greatest quantity seized, with 13.2 tons recovered in 2007. In herbal cannabis, the total volume of seizures in 2007 amounted to 96 tons, over one-quarter of which was in Turkey (25.5 tons). The amount of cannabis resin seized increased in Turkey, amounting to 6,302 kilograms.
The latest United Nations drug report also confirms the fact that Turkey is becoming a battleground for narcotics trafficking and plays an important role in preventing the flow of drugs. For example, global seizures of acetic anhydride -- used to manufacture heroin -- increased to 56,300 liters in 2007, with almost half of it recovered in Russia (25,000 liters), followed by Turkey with 13,300 liters.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the independent and quasi-judicial control organ monitoring the implementation of the United Nations drug control conventions, estimates that “almost 80 percent of the acetic anhydride required for illicit laboratories in Afghanistan is smuggled through countries in South-Eastern and Eastern Europe.” Experts suspect Turkish soil is being used to bring most of this substance to Afghanistan.
Low score for drug treatment
The report finds that Turkey has not developed strong programs to address the treatment of drug addicts. For example, it said Turkey lacks opioid substitution treatment and needle and syringe exchange programs, which target overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases. It stressed that the prevention and reduction of drug-related harm is a public health objective in all EU member states though considerable differences exist in the range and levels of service provision.
Turkey, along with Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania, also scored low in the availability of outpatient psychosocial treatment for drug users. Services are estimated to be available to less than half of those who actively seek them. As for opioid substitution treatment, which is now available in all EU member states, Turkey is yet to introduce a treatment package although this is permitted under a 2004 regulation on treatment centers.
The report also found that Turkey does not have substitution treatment for those who are imprisoned. Hepatitis C testing as a form of prevention and harm reduction upon entering prison is also not available in Turkey.
It is estimated that in 2007, around 979 hepatitis C and 6,461 hepatitis B cases were diagnosed in Turkey. At the moment, there is no routine testing of intravenous drug users (IDUs), so the number of new cases of drug users being infected with the hepatitis B and C virus is not known. Regarding HIV, data from the Ministry of Health General Directorate of Basic Health Services recorded a total of 127 IDUs testing HIV positive in 2007 -- 5 percent of all HIV cases.
The report also underlined that overdose response training is not currently available in Turkey. In 2007, there were approximately 147 drug-related deaths reported, a sharp rise from 51 cases in 2006.
Turkish Parliament has not ratified treaty
The report was prepared with the help of the Ankara-based Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (TUBİM), an interagency body charged with coordinating and developing national drug and drug treatment policies, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organized Crime (TADOC).
The European Commission lambasted Turkey in its report, saying TUBİM's human resources capacity is relatively weak and still lacks an autonomous budget. It also criticized Ankara for not ratifying the agreement concerning Turkey's participation in the EMCDDA.
Turkey first applied to be a member of the EMCDDA in October 2000 and after an evaluation period, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement on Oct. 30, 2007. Though the agreement was ratified by the European Parliament and given consent by the European Council, the Turkish Parliament has yet to officially ratify the treaty.
When the treaty is ratified, Turkey will fully participate in all the work of the EMCDDA. It will also contribute financially to EMCDDA activities, starting with 731,000 euros of financing in the first year of its membership. After the first year, Turkey's future contribution rate will be determined based on the country's participation in the EMCDDA. After four years of membership, Turkey will be able to use the center's funds for its domestic drug-related efforts.
The commission further criticized Turkey for not having a balanced approach between reducing drug supply and reducing demand, signaling that the government pays too much attention to curtailing trafficking through law enforcement mechanisms but does little to curb demand for drugs. It emphasized that prevention, treatment and rehabilitation facilities need to be further developed. The EMCDDA report also stressed that the majority of treatment services for problem drug users in Turkey are aimed at dealing with addiction in general and not specifically for users of illicit drugs.
Report: Synthetic drugs pose major challenge to Europe
Innovative suppliers and illicit traffickers of synthetic drugs pose a major challenge to national and international drug control policies, circumventing narcotics laws at times, the European Union drug agency said on Thursday.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in its annual report that the complex synthetic drug market in Europe allows drug suppliers to bypass national laws by offering unregulated substitutes. “While this practice in itself is not new, what is new is the wide range of substances now on offer; the growing use of the Internet; the aggressive and sophisticated marketing of products -- in some cases intentionally mislabeled -- and the very speed at which the market reacts to controls,” EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz said.
The challenge to drug policies posed by market innovation and sophistication led the European drug agency to develop an early-warning system, which has tracked over 90 new substances to date. “Faced with this ‘moving target,' it is essential that our information systems become more sensitive to monitoring new drugs and trends,” Götz said. In 2008, 13 new psychoactive substances were reported by EU member states to the EMCDDA and Europol through the system. Of these, 11 were new synthetic drugs and two were plants called kratom and kava.
Götz told reporters in Brussels that for the first time, a synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-018, was among the reported drugs thanks to this early warning system. The appearance of synthetic cannabinoids, which mark the latest stage in the development of “designer drugs,” can produce cannabis-like effects when consumed. “This drug appears to be targeting the cannabis market,” he added.
The report, titled “The Annual report 2009: the state of the drugs problem in Europe,” suggests that the number of online retailers of these products is growing and that they adapt rapidly to attempts to control the market, for example, through the launch of new products. In addition, online pharmacies and online retailers selling psychoactive substances for ostensibly legitimate purposes also potentially provide new avenues for illicit drug supply.
There are some positive notes in the report as well. “Overall, for most forms of consumption, we are not seeing major increases and, in some areas, trends appear to be downwards,” said EMCDDA director. The comprehensive survey done by the drug agency's affiliates in a number of European countries indicates amphetamine and ecstasy use remain steady or in a declining trend. New data confirmed a continued fall in cannabis use, particularly among young people. However, “cocaine and heroin continue to maintain a firm hold on Europe's drug scene, and there is little to suggest at present any improvement regarding their use in Europe,” Götz underlined.
The agency points out that there is a slight decrease in the consumption of cannabis in Europe overall but the use of cocaine is still holding steady. While 23 million European adults aged 15–64 were using cannabis in 2007, the number dropped slightly by half a million to 22.5 million last year. Cocaine users, however, remained at the same level at 4 million.
Cocaine and heroin use remains steady
There is little to suggest any improvement regarding cocaine and heroin use in Europe, the two substances that remain at the heart of Europe's drugs problem, says the EU drugs agency. Polydrug use is also a major concern, as the range of available substances grows and drug-taking repertoires become increasingly complex.
Some 13 million European adults aged between 15 and 64 have tried cocaine in their lifetime. Of these, 7.5 million are young adults aged 15–34 years old, 3 million of whom have used it in the last year. Cocaine use in the EU remains concentrated in western EU countries, but elsewhere in Europe consumption remains low. In the highest-prevalence countries, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Italy and the UK, recent surveys show that use in the last year among young adults ranged from 3.1 percent to 5.5 percent. In most reporting countries, recent data point to a stable or rising trend in last-year use in the 15–34 age group.
In 2007, the number of cocaine seizures in Europe increased to 92,000 compared to 84,000 in 2006, although the total quantity recovered dropped to 77 tons, down from 121 tons in 2006. Among those entering drug treatment services for the first time, 22 percent cited cocaine as their primary problem drug. Some 500 deaths associated with cocaine use were reported in 2007.
As for heroin use, the report confirms last year's finding that there is a “stable but no longer diminishing heroin problem.” “While there is currently no evidence of a return to the epidemic spread of heroin use seen in the 1980s and 1990s, the health and social problems arising from the use of this drug remain considerable,” EMCDDA Chairman Marcel Reimen says. “Any indications that the situation may be worsening are grounds for substantial concern,” he added.
The EMCDDA estimates that there are between 1.2 and 1.5 million problem opioid users in the EU and Norway, most of these heroin users. New data also suggest that recruitment to heroin use is still occurring, albeit moderately. In the period 1990–2006, between 6,400 and 8,500 drug-induced deaths were reported each year in Europe, most of these associated with opioid use (typically over 85 percent).
While the overall amount of heroin seized in the EU and Norway declined after 2002, it increased from 8.1 tons in 2006 to 8.8 tons in 2007. Turkey, an important transit country for heroin entering the EU, reported a record 13.2 tons seized in 2007, compared to 2.7 tons in 2002.
New data confirm declining cannabis use, particularly among the young. Around 74 million Europeans (15–64 years) have tried cannabis in their lifetime, around 22.5 million of them having used it in the last year. This still makes cannabis Europe's most commonly consumed illicit drug.
Polydrug and alcohol are major concerns
“In Europe today, polydrug use patterns are widespread, and the combined use of different substances is responsible for, or complicates, most of the problems we face,” states the report. Of schoolchildren (15–16 years) surveyed in 22 countries, 20 percent reported use in the last month of alcohol with cigarettes; 6 percent cannabis with alcohol and/or cigarettes; and 1 percent cannabis with alcohol and/or cigarettes plus one other drug (ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD or heroin).
The report also argues that “a defining factor in Europe's substance use problem is the concomitant consumption of alcohol,” underlining that almost all polydrug use repertoires show the presence of alcohol. The latest survey found that 43 percent of school students surveyed in 2007 reported “heavy episodic drinking” (five drinks or more per occasion) in the past 30 days. Increases in this behavior were particularly visible among girls between the 2003 and 2007 surveys, with an increase in prevalence from 35 percent to 42 percent. Binge drinking often goes hand-in-hand with recreational drug use, increasing the risks of negative outcomes among young people.
“The individual experiencing problems with a single substance is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule,” says Götz. “Europe's drugs problem increasingly stems from the combined use of different psychoactive substances, both licit and illicit. This reality not only leads to more negative outcomes, but also challenges drug treatment services as they respond to a more complex set of needs. Moreover, our policy perspectives need to reflect that the combined use of drugs with alcohol has become a key feature of the problems we now face.”
Turkey as a barrier to drug trafficking
The report praises Turkey for being the major barrier to narcotics traffic coming through the eastern route, following a transit passage through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and crossing into the Balkans, eventually ending in Central and Western Europe. The biggest volume of herbal cannabis seized was in Turkey with 25.5 tons, followed by Belgium with 12.8 tons, the report notes. The high number of busts in cannabis trafficking on the Balkan route has forced suppliers to increasingly use the “northern route” via Central Asia and the Russian Federation.
The European drug agency also found that the number of herbal cannabis seizures in Europe as well as the overall volume has increased. In Europe, an estimated 241,000 seizures of herbal cannabis, amounting to 96 tons, were made in 2007 while 177,000 seizures of herbal cannabis, amounting to 86 tons, were made in the previous year.
The amount of cannabis resin traffic is higher than that of herbal cannabis, the report finds. In 2007, there were 325,000 seizures of cannabis resin, amounting to 859 tons of the drug, almost nine times more than the volume of seizures of herbal cannabis. Spain accounted for approximately three-quarters of this volume, followed by Belgium with 59 tons, Portugal with 43 tons and Turkey with 6 tons.
November 6, 2009