It is a struggle to keep pace even with legal recreational drugs, says the EU drug observatory in its latest annual report, and the trend is not slowing down. Apart from a considerable public appetite for cannabis, euphoric opioids are still a dominant problem, but cocaine use has risen, mainly in Spain, Italy and the UK, with more deadly effect.
The observatory’s head is constantly concerned over under-reporting of any drug trend by EU countries’ authorities. Director Wolfgang Götz said:
“The picture we provide today is a very accurate picture, but it depends on the information available, the information we receive. Data collection methods can always be improved.”
The EMCDDA describes a fast development of new psychoactive substances which is straining control efforts. And the economic crisis increasingly threatens support programmes for drug users with budget cuts.
EN correspondent Tiago Marques explained: “The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in Lisbon collects and analyzes data from the 27 member states regarding the new trafficking trends and drug use. To see each country’s particularities, we go to the field.”
Portuguese legislation to combat drug consumption has been seen as a European reference. The drug users are no longer considered as criminals but as patients needing treatment. At a help centre, this psychiatrist supports the change in attitude and outlook.
Miguel Vasconcelos said: “I think it has greatly reduced the social impact and made it easier to get people to come in for treatment. In Portugal, it means finding the problems earlier. We have more opportunities to help people whose health is a serious concern.”
Effectively treating people with substance abuse problems is a central pillar of Europe’s response to drugs. The European observatory figures that more than a million people per year get some form of treatment for drug problems in the European Union.