Drugs overdoses are increasingly fatal. This is especially the case in Europe, where new and numerous “dangerous” substances are circulating for health, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in its annual report.
The use of illicit drugs remains a major challenge for European societies, “said Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, quoted in the preamble to the report, noting that “more than 93 million Europeans or more than a quarter of people aged 15 to 64, have already consumed”.
Cannabis remains by far the most popular drug in Europe, in the face of cocaine, MDMA (active principle of ecstasy) and amphetamines (amphetamine and methamphetamine).
Drugs overdoses phenomena.
Two phenomena are of particular concern to Mr Avramopoulos: “the increase for the third consecutive year in the number of drugs overdoses deaths, and the growing exposure of young people to many new and dangerous drugs for health, Including “synthetic drugs”.
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The EMCDDA report, based on data collected in 2015 and 2016, highlights the “serious” and “worrying” increase in the number of drugs overdoses deaths in the 28 EU Member States and Turkey and Norway ( 8,441 deaths in 2015, + 6% compared to 2014), “mainly related to heroin and other opiates” (opium derivatives).
This increase in mortality, for the third consecutive year, concerns “almost all age groups” and countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Lithuania or Turkey. It particularly strikes the 1.3 million Europeans considered as “problematic users of opiates”, a particularly “vulnerable” group.
The EMCDDA points out that in countries such as France, Denmark, Ireland and Croatia,drugs overdoses of opiates used in substitution treatment (methadone and buprenorphine in particular) kill more than heroin. It therefore calls on states to adapt to fight “the diversion of these substances”.
Synthetic opiates, danger.
Another concern of the EMCDDA is that “new psychoactive substances” (drugs or synthetic products) which “still represent a considerable challenge for public health in Europe”, especially since these products are rapidly being renewed (66 novelties detected in 2016 by the EU) and “are not subject to international control measures”.
Their “overall availability remains high” – the EMCDDA monitored more than 620 in 2016, compared to about 350 in 2013 – with “increasingly clandestine” sales, notably “in online or illicit markets” .
The EMCDDA is particularly concerned about the dangers of new high-active synthetic opiates, which mimic the effects of heroin and morphine, and constitute a “growing health threat” in Europe and North. While these substances remain a minority in the drug market, they are increasingly involved in “poisoning, fatal or not.”
These powders, tablets, capsules or even certain nasal liquids and sprays are “easy to distribute and transport” and therefore difficult to track down, notes the EMCDDA.
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Among these substances are fentanyls, very powerful sedatives which cause overdoses every year in tens of thousands, especially in North America. According to the report, “more than 50 drugs overdoses deaths associated with these substances” have already been reported in Europe. These fentanyls, which have an exceptionally high content of active ingredient (sometimes much more than heroin), accounted for more than 60% of the 600 seizures of new synthetic opiates reported in 2015, according to the EMCDDA.
Cocaine, which is more widely consumed in western and southern countries, whereas amphetamines are more widely distributed in the North and East, it appears to be increasingly available in some parts of Europe. The number of seizures and the increased presence of its residues in wastewater, the report said.