The EU is reporting a fall in the use of traditional drugs in some member countries, but growing concern over increasing use of ‘legal highs’.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s (EMCDDA) annual trends and developments study released in Portugal on Tuesday shows that cannabis, cocaine and heroin are less popular.
However, the UK has the highest number of cocaine users and people in heroin substitution treatment.
The report cites more than 280 psychoactive synthetic substances, with more than 70 new ones coming onto the market in the last twelve months.
These synthetic drugs are mainly manufactured in Chinese or Indian laboratories, sold over the internet and sent to Europe through the post without any controls.
The substances are often marketed and sold as ‘legal highs’, ‘plant food’ or ‘research chemicals’. This are now the largest group of drugs being monitored.
Experts say they have discovered two new substances that have been linked to over 40 deaths in Europe.
“In big cities, the choice of new synthetics drugs on offer to consumers is now much more important, mainly for stimulants. Their use is problematic. They are being abused, they are unhealthy, a have bad consequences for societies and families.. in the way we normally think of heroin,” said analyst Laurent Laniel.
They can now be found in almost every European country, according to the report compiled by the EMCDDA and the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol.
euronews correspondent in Lisbon Tiago Marques said: “Drug trafficking and consumption trends can be assessed in different contexts but there’s always the question of public health. The experts are unanimous: in terms of economics, one of the main risks to prevention and treatment policies is cuts in health spending and spending on social integration policies in Europe.”