28th Sep 2023

Cocaine and ecstasy use rife in EU

  • There are 2.1 million problem drug users in the EU today (Photo:

Drug abuse is increasing across the EU, with cocaine and ecstasy becoming the drug of choice for new users, an EU report shows.

"Europe remains a major market for stimulant drugs, and indicators suggest that the trend in amphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine use continues to be upwards," the 2005 annual study from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) states.

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The report is based on data provided by the 25 EU countries, plus Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Norway.

Cocaine is popular with around 9 million Europeans - or 3 percent of all adults - having used the drug.

Between 3 and 3.5 million are likely to have taken cocaine in the last year, while around 1.5 million are so-called current users, having used it in the last month, the report shows.

Spain, a smugglers' gateway to the European cocaine market, and Great Britain show the highest numbers of cocaine users with roughly four percent of adult citizens having tried it in the last year

"It is time to realize that cocaine has turned into a simple street drug. It is no longer a substance for the elite," said Wolfgang Goetz, director of the EMCDDA while presenting the report in the European Parliament on Thursday (24 November).

Amphetamine-based drug ecstasy ranked second among drugs of choice in several of the participating countries.

Consumption was particularly high in Britain, Spain, France and the Czech Republic.

Joints outclass other drugs

Cannabis is by far the most common drug among the EU's 460 million citizens, however.

More than 62 million Europeans have smoked cannabis at one point or another in their lives, with consumption growing dramatically since the mid 1990s.

An average of 12 percent of Europeans used cannabis in 2004, while the rate was 23 percent among Czechs, 19 percent among the French and British and 17 percent among Spaniards, the report said.

Drug-intolerant countries Sweden and Greece showed the lowest numbers in Europe on cannabis use.

Treatment, not prison

On the upside, the report revealed that EU drug decriminalisation measures and treatment programs have proven effective.

In recent years, EU strategy has shifted to prevention rather than punishment for drug use.

Emphasising decriminalisation and promoting treatment has helped fight heroin use, with the amount of addicts injecting on the wane.

The report states that over 530,000 injecting users receive substitution treatment through specialist treatment centres or general practitioners.

There are up to 2.1 million problem drug users in the EU today however, over a million of whom are likely to inject.


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