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Along with Britain and France, Spain is the European leader in cocaine and cannabis use amongst young people, although the usage is declining, according to annual data published this week by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs.

The study warns, however, that the “positive signs” that the use of traditional drugs is declining, the data is counteracted by a threatened increase in “new threats posed by synthetic drugs, including stimulants and new psychoactive substances”, which have a growing presence in the European drug market.

An estimated 2.2 million young people, between the ages of 15 and 34 years, used cocaine last year, 1.7% of that age group. Collectively, cocaine use in Spain was more than double the EU average, with 3.6% usage. Usage in the UK stood at 3.3%, Ireland was 2.8% and Denmark 2.4%. At the other end of the scale, cocaine use was hardly noticeable in places such as Greece and Romania, with just 0.2%.

Cocaine shipments to Europe come “almost exclusively” from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. “Cocaine trafficking to Europe appears to occur mainly through the countries of Western and Southern Europe, such as Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, France and Italy”, where 85% of the total 71 tons seized in 2012 were found, according to the report.

Cannabis is still the most popular illegal drug for all age groups with an estimated 14.6 million young Europeans consuming the drug last year, around 11.2% of the entire population. Spain ranks in fourth place in terms of use of this drug, with a rate of 17% of the population, with the Czech Republic leading the way with 18.5%, Denmark with 17.6% and France with 17.5%. Once again, at the opposite end is Romania with just 0.6% usage, along with Malta at 1.9% and Greece with 3.2%.

The report does note that cannabis use in Spain is the lowest in the last decade”, with Germany, France and the UK, all showing either stability in consumption or a decline in use. In Denmark, Finland and Sweden however, there is an upward trend in cannabis use.

Young Spaniards are also above the EU average in terms of ecstasy use, with 1.4% of the 15 to 34 age group using the drug, compared to 1% of the EU average. The use of amphetamines is also higher at 1.1% compared to the European average of 0.9%.

There is some positive news in the report too, as Spain is below the EU average of the number of drug-induced deaths, with 11.4 cases per million people, compared to 17.1 per million average in Europe. The highest rates were recorded in Estonia with 191 per million and Norway with 76 per million people, followed by Ireland with 70 per million inhabitants.

The new threat to Europeans is coming from a new breed of synthetic drugs, including Methamphetamine, historically low in Europe and mostly limited to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, seems now to be spreading through the rest of Europe, the report warned.

Smoked methamphetamine in crystalline form is also on the increase, with a risk of a possible spread among vulnerable populations disturbing from Southeast Europe, such as Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

The report warns of an increasing the number, type and availability of new drugs in Europe shows no signs of abating. New psychoactive substances are often sold in the market as “legal highs” and occur to mimic the effects of other drugs. New drugs can be produced in clandestine laboratories in Europe.

More common, however, are substances obtained in powder form, especially from China and India, where the internet continues to play a key role. Last year alone, the Centre identified 650 websites that sold these substances to Europeans.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43831/

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