Drug use back to pre-pandemic levels

Austrians smoke fewer joints than the EU average

According to estimates in the previous year, cannabis was by far the most frequently used drug in Europe. 22.2 million EU citizens aged 15 to 64 used marijuana or hashish. That is 7.7 percent of the 15 to 64 year olds, among the under 35 year olds even 15.5 percent (15.8 million consumers).

The values ​​regarding cannabis for Austria in the report were slightly below the EU average. On the other hand, between three and four percent of 15 to 34-year-olds in Germany used LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms, while in the EU it was less than one percent of the age group.

An estimated 3.5 million EU citizens used cocaine last year. That is 1.2 percent of the 15 to 64 year olds. A record 213 tonnes of this substance was seized in 2020, and almost the same amount in 2021 at 212.6 tonnes. After cocaine users came ecstasy (MDMA/methylene dioxy methyl amphetamine) with around 2.6 million customers in the EU last year. In the case of amphetamine use, the number of customers for the previous year was estimated at two million.

191 Austrians died from an overdose

The number of high-risk opioid users in the EU is put at one million. Heroin and other opioids were responsible for 74 percent of all overdose fatalities. The report provided figures from 2020 for the total number of drug overdose deaths. 191 deaths were reported from Austria, up from 196 in 2019. Across the EU, it is estimated that at least 5,800 people died from an overdose in 2020.

Technology remains an important driver of drug markets, the report said. The dark web, social media, instant messaging apps, and communication and encryption technologies are used in the sale of drugs, and according to EMCDDA analysis, pandemic, law enforcement actions and lengthy downtimes have impacted activities in the dark web drug markets. At the end of 2021, estimated earnings fell to just under €30,000 per day, down from €1 million per day in 2020.

52 new drugs discovered in EU

This year the EU Early Warning System (EWS) on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) celebrates its 25th anniversary. Strong and dangerous substances are still emerging, it is stressed. Cannabis products are also becoming more diverse and the production of synthetic drugs within Europe is on the rise. In 2021, 52 new drugs were first reported through the EWS, bringing the total number of NPS monitored to 880.

“The continued increase in synthetic drug production in the EU shows us the relentless drive of organized gangs to profit from the illicit drug trade, which puts public health and safety at risk,” warned EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

“Established drugs have never been more accessible and new powerful substances are emerging all the time. Today almost anything with psychoactive properties can be a drug as the lines between legal and illegal substances are blurring,” said EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel.

On a positive note, the EU Drugs Agency noted that new technologies have been deployed during the pandemic, with increased use of online platforms for clinical and social management of drug problems. Many drug services organizations appear to have retained some of these innovations, including pre-arranged visits and increased use of telemedicine. However, these approaches still need research evaluation, particularly with regard to their suitability for groups who may have difficulties accessing digital services.

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