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Galvin, Brian (2012) 2011 report on the drugs situation in Europe. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 40, Winter 2011 , pp. 5-6.

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The annual report for 20111from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) was published on 15 November. The Health Research Board (HRB) provides the Irish figures for the EMCDDA report.  

The report shows drug use to be relatively stable in Europe, with some positive signs that cocaine use may have peaked and that cannabis use continues to decline among young people in many countries.  The number of new cases entering treatment for problem cocaine use has declined over the past two years, indicating a possible decrease in cocaine use in Ireland. The 2007 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey shows a small increase in lifetime cannabis use among schoolchildren over three time points, indicating that cannabis use continues to increase among young people in Ireland. 
 
Signs of stability in relation to some of the more established drugs are offset by new threats across Europe. Over the last nine years, and more intensively over the last three to four years, the selling of new psychoactive substances in head shops and online has emerged as a new phenomenon across Europe, including Ireland.
 
Opiates (mainly heroin)
Around 5% of those entering treatment for drug problems now report opiates other than heroin as their primary drug; this proportion is much higher in Northern Europe. For instance, three quarters of those entering treatment in Estonia now report fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, as their main problem drug. In Ireland around 2% of those entering treatment for drug problems reported opiates other than heroin as their primary drug.
 
Among opiate users entering treatment, rates of injecting vary considerably between countries, ranging from under 10% in the Netherlands to over 90% in Latvia and Lithuania. However, a five-year analysis of trends among heroin users entering treatment shows that the proportion of those reporting injecting (40% in 2009)  is falling in most European countries. In Ireland 36% of heroin users entering treatment reported injecting drug use. The proportion of injector cases has decreased since 2005. The EMCDDA estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 opiate users die each year from overdose, disease, suicide and trauma. The report estimates that the mortality rate among regular opiate users is 10 to 20 times higher than that among their non-opiate-using peers. Opiates continued to be associated with the majority of fatal overdoses in Ireland. In 2009, 180 poisoning deaths were associated with opiates, alone or with another drug. A total of 1,345 non-poisoning deaths were recorded among drug users between 1998 and 2007; 60% were due to trauma (mainly hangings and road traffic collisions) and 40% were due to medical causes (mainly cardiac events and respiratory infections). The proportion attributable to opiate use has not been calculated.
 
The availability of heroin was reported to have dropped in a number of European countries at the end of 2010 and in early 2011, with the drought being particularly evident in the UK and Ireland. (See Quantitative evidence of a heroin drought on p. X of this issue).
 
Cocaine
Of the five high-prevalence countries, four – Denmark, Spain, Italy and the UK –  reported a decline in last-year cocaine use among young adults. Ireland is ranked fifth for cocaine use in the EU. The 2010/11 NACD 2 general population survey reported that 1.5% of adults had used cocaine in the year prior to the survey and that the percentage was higher among young adults (2.8%) and among men (2.3%). Around 17% of drugs users entering treatment reported cocaine as their main problem drug. In Ireland in 2009, 11% of those who entered treatment reported cocaine as their primary drug; this proportion fell to 9% in 2010.
 
Cannabis
Cannabis is still Europe’s most commonly consumed illicit drug. One in five adults aged 15–64 years have tried cannabis at some point in their lives. The latest European data confirm the general stabilisation or downward trend in cannabis use among young adults (15–34 years). Surveys of school children mirror this decline. Ireland is placed in the mid-range for cannabis use. The 2010/11 NACD general population survey reported that 6.0% of the general population had used cannabis in the year prior to the survey. The number of cannabis users attending treatment increased from 991 in 2003 to 1,893 in 2010, when it represented 25% of all clients in treatment.
 
New psychoactive substances
The European Early Warning System identified 24 new psychoactive substances in 2009, 41 in 2010 and 34 so far in 2011. The most recent EMCDDA snapshot survey of online retailers selling new psychoactive substances identified over 600 online shops, almost twice as many as a year ago. The survey also revealed a variety of new products, and an increase in warnings, restrictions and disclaimers. It also revealed an increasing ability to mask the identities of both sellers and buyers. Ireland has had notable success in limiting the sale of new psychoactive substances. This was achieved through the combined efforts of a number of government departments and statutory agencies.
 
1. EMCCDA (2011) Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Luxembourg. Publications Office of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16288

National Advisory Committee on Drugs. (2011) Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland: first results from the 2010/2011 drug prevalence survey. Dublin. National Advisory Committee on Drugs & Public Health Information and Research Branch. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16353

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 40, Winter 2011
Date:January 2012
Page Range:pp. 5-6
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 40, Winter 2011
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence
B Substances > Opioids (opiates) > Opioid product > Fentanyl
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Health services, substance use research
VA Geographic area > Europe
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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