Drugs and Europe

In the contemporary world, man, as a whole, has reached a high standard of achievement in material progress. Human society, no doubt, is benefiting from the fruits of today’s scientific progress. The rays of this progress have reached far and enlightened the darkest areas of the world. Nevertheless, man is not happy and content. Moreover, the world of today is riddled with a large number of problems.

Drug misuse is a massive problem facing the world today. Children are losing their lives, dreams and future to drugs. Countless homes have been wrecked and drug- related crimes are destroying families and ruining the social fabric of communities the world over.

Governments are spending large amounts of money in tackling drug misuse and the abuse of these substances. But, many are critical that nations do not appear to be winning the fight against drugs because worryingly, the number of people turning to drugs is dramatically rising. The latter point is seriously disturbing because it includes many in our own society, which is a truly worrying situation for such a small nation as ours.

The fact is that the demand for illicit drugs has risen and is rising sharply. More and more people than ever before are taking drugs on a global scale.

The drugs market in Europe is not to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination. A recent study published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol, the European policing agency, highlighted the problem.

In the report, Cannabis is listed as the most widely used drug in Europe and accounts for almost 40% of the entire drug market, this according to EU data in the report. The estimated market value of cannabis is €9.3 billion annually. This is within a range of  €8.4 to €12.9 billion.

It is followed by heroin – which is worth an estimated €6.8 billion (between €6 and €7.8 billion) and is responsible for a significant proportion of drug-related deaths and social costs. This is followed by cocaine (€5.7 billion), amphetamine (€1.8 billion) and MDMA/ecstasy (€0.67 billion).

The EMCDDA report highlights that new psychoactive substances are also a serious and growing market, but due to the large number of different substances falling under this heading and the speed with which new products are introduced, it is difficult to put a market value on their worth.

These figures and other valuable information is contained in the latest EMCDDA Drug Report which can be seen on their extensive website.

The report also highlights the dominant trends in the supply and distribution of illicit drugs across Europe and the impact that the illegal drugs trade has on societies – both socially and financially.

It states that around 22 million adults across the EU use cannabis regularly and about 1% use it on an almost daily basis.

Organised crime gangs are heavily involved in its production, and the report states that Vietnamese gangs are active in producing and distributing the drug in a number of countries, including Ireland.

A lot of the product now sold across Europe is grown domestically – but there are still major supply routes for shipments coming out of North Africa.

The report states that aside from being a major public health issue, the illegal drugs market affects the economy in the amount of money that it generates, which affects the GDP of countries, as well as in the vast amounts of money spent by governments trying to tackle the issue.


For a quick overview of the EMCDDA

On the question of research - a new study suggests some countries in the European Union are showing concerning levels of abuse of dangerous, ‘addictive prescription painkillers’, creating some trepidation that they will follow the United States, which has in recent years faced a deadly epidemic.

The study, published by BMC Psychiatry, shows levels haven't reached the same abuse rates as the U.S., but are still higher than researchers expected.

This is occurring even though "doctor shopping," or going to multiple doctors for the same prescription, is more difficult in countries that have universal health care systems. Doctors tend to be assigned on a regional basis, with greater coordination of care, and patients often have to wait days or weeks to get an appointment. In the U.S., where doctor shopping is cited as a main way for people to get access to prescription medications, the system is more fragmented.

Interestingly, the report suggests that Spain had the highest use of opioids for non-medical purposes, and Great Britain had the second-highest. Germany had the lowest estimates, not only for opioids, but also for sedatives and stimulants.

Footnote:The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) was established in 1993. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. The EMCDDA exists to provide the EU and its Member States with a factual overview of European drug problems and a solid evidence base to support the drugs debate. Today it offers policymakers the data they need for drawing up informed drug laws and strategies. It also helps professionals and practitioners working in the field to pinpoint best practice and new areas of research.

Download European Drug Report 2016: Trends and Developments PDF