Home > Health Research Board compares the Irish drug situation with the rest of Europe.

[Health Research Board] Health Research Board compares the Irish drug situation with the rest of Europe. (22 Sep 2020)

PDF (Comparison of the EU and Irish drug situation)

External website: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33049

The European drug report 2020: trends and developments report provides a snapshot of the latest drug trends across the 27 EU member states, Norway and Turkey.  The Health Research Board (HRB) provides the Irish data and research for the EMCDDA report.

This media brief is designed to highlight key points from the European report and, where the data are available, provide a comparison with the situation in Ireland. 

Europe is seeing signs of an increase in synthetic drug protection, including new synthetic opioids and ecstasy tablets containing high levels of MDMA.  The report notes that, while COVID-19 has only marginally disrupted drug supplies, innovative distribution models developed during lockdown may cause problems in the future. 

The analysis of data supplied by monitoring centres in the 27 EU member states and Norway and Turkey show: 

  • An increase in the number of large seizures of cocaine, cannabis resin and heroin.
  • A total of 181 tonnes of cocaine were seized during 2019.
  • Cocaine purity is increasing and more first-time entrants into drug treatment programmes are seeking help for problems with cocaine use.
  • Cannabis resin and herb are now around twice as strong as they were a decade ago.
  • MDMA products are increasing in strength and the scale of synthetic drug production in Europe is continuing to increase.
  • Seizures of heroin have doubled, with some heroin now being produced in Europe. Drug overdose is increasingly associated with those over 50 as the population of those who use heroin age.

The European Drug Report describes the innovative response of services throughout Europe to the disruption caused by COVID-19, and the decline in the use of some drugs mainly associated with social settings, such as MDMA and cocaine. 

The Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, said: ‘The latest European drug report highlights the serious challenges created by illicit drugs and the overall strength of substances including high potency cannabis. As Minister with responsibility for the National Drug Strategy I am committed to strengthening early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends and patterns of drug use in Ireland.’ 

Minster Feighan added ‘I also note that the report reviews the impact of the pandemic on drug use and the most vulnerable in society, which is an issue we have become very familiar with. I say this as part of Ireland’s response to COVID 19 specific resource documents were developed to ensure that all people in receipt of opioid substitute treatment could continue safely with their treatment during the pandemic. I am also pleased to note that despite the major difficulties caused by the pandemic an additional 755 people were brought into opioid substitution treatment services, representing an increase of 7 per cent nationally. This was an amazing achievement considering the difficulties involved.’

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel says: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate, disruptive impact on drug use, supply and services and has highlighted the special needs of people who use drugs. While we will need to assess the long-term impact of the pandemic, in the short-term we already see that large-scale drug trafficking has been largely unaffected and digitally enabled drug markets have become more popular. As the economic repercussions of the crisis take effect, some in our communities may become more vulnerable to drug problems and drug market involvement, putting greater pressure on our already stretched services. It is essential therefore that we identify early, and act rapidly and effectively to, address the new threats that may emerge from this fast-evolving situation.’

[Please see the PDF document for the Comparison of the EU and Irish drug situation]


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco), Cannabis, CNS depressants / Sedatives, CNS stimulants, Cocaine, Inhalents and solvents, Opioid, New psychoactive substance, Prescription/Over the counter
Intervention Type
Treatment method, Harm reduction, Screening / Assessment, Policy
22 September 2020

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