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26th Feb 2017

Drug overdose kills one European per hour

  • The use of cocaine in the last year has increased in seven EU countries. (Photo: US federal government)

Although drugs consumption in Europe in the last year has remained relatively stable, its levels are still alarmingly high, and the use of cocaine has even noted an increase in some countries, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said on Thursday (6 November) in its annual report.

One European dies every hour from drug overdose, with young people being particularly vulnerable, says the document, which covers developments across the EU as well as in Croatia, Turkey and Norway.

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Cannabis remains the most consumed illicit drug in Europe, with some 71 million people aged 15 to 64 years old having tried it at least once in their lives and 23 million having used it in the past year alone.

Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and France topped the list of cannabis consumers last year, while the lowest use of marijuana was found in Malta, Bulgaria, Greece, and Sweden.

Some 4 million people across Europe, many of whom are young, are estimated to be using it on a daily or almost daily basis, although the report also underlines that the drug's global consumption seems to be "stable or declining."

On the other hand, however, the consumption of cocaine has noted an increase in seven member states – France, Ireland, Spain, the UK, Italy, Denmark and Portugal.

Overall, 3.5 million young Europeans (15–34 years) have used cocaine in the last year, and 1.5 million in the last month.

Cocaine is mostly to be found on the illicit stimulant market in the west and south of Europe, while elsewhere use and availability remain generally low, according to the report.

In contrast, amphetamines and ecstasy remain the prevailing stimulants in most northern, central and eastern EU countries, especially in those which joined the bloc in 2004 and 2007.

One death per hour

Presenting the report at a press conference in the European Parliament, EMCDDA director Wolfgang Gotz underlined the harm caused by drug consumption and said drug overdose remained one of the main causes of death among the young people in Europe.

"We estimate there are 7,000 to 8,000 drug-induced deaths in Europe per year," he said. "In simple terms, we can say that one of our citizens dies per hour because of an overdose. We should really think whether we can allow ourselves this appalling waste of life."

The majority of these deaths are related to heroin, he explained, but some 450 of them can be attributed directly to cocaine, "which is now the worrying development."

"A couple of years ago, we were quite optimistic that the levels of drug-related deaths were falling and they were falling quite regularly - at least until 2003. But this seems to be no longer the case," Mr Gotz added.

In reaction to the report, EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot said that its "alarming" findings underlined "the urgent need to highlight to young people the serious risks of taking drugs."

Brussels said it is planning "a major public campaign" next year to discuss the risks related to drugs use and to make citizens aware of the figures.

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