New psychoactive substances detected

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Two new substances a week identified in Europe

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are now being detected in Europe at a rate of two per week, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. More than 100 NPS were reported last year, says the European drug report 2015, with the total number of substances being monitored by the agency now standing at more than 450.

As in previous years the majority of substances reported were either synthetic cannabinoids or cathinones, with the internet now playing a ‘growing role’ in supplying both NPS and more established drugs, and posing a ‘major challenge to law enforcement and drug control policies’. The British government has recently moved to introduce a blanket ban on all NPS (DDN, June, page 4).

Meanwhile, although problems relating to heroin continue to ‘account for a large share of drug-related health and social costs’ across the continent, demand for the drug appears to be stagnating, says the document.

More than half of Europe’s 1.3m long-term opioid users are now estimated to be in treatment, while the number of people entering heroin treatment for the first time stood at 23,000 in 2013, down from 2007’s figure of almost 60,000. The median age of opioid users rose by five years between 2006 and 2013, with a ‘significant number’ now in their 40s or 50s. However the report warns of potential future problems as a result of increased opium production in Afghanistan, as well as alternative smuggling routes into Europe.

Unsurprisingly, cannabis remains the continent’s most widely consumed drug, with almost 20m people reporting use within the last year and more than 60,000 people entering first-time treatment for cannabis problems in 2013, while cocaine is still Europe’s most commonly used illicit stimulant. The document also reports increasing potency levels for cannabis, MDMA and other drugs.

‘The report shows that we are confronted with a rapidly changing, globalised drug market and, therefore, we need to be united, swift and determined in our response to the drugs threat,’ said European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. ‘I am particularly concerned that the internet is increasingly becoming a new source of supply, for both controlled and uncontrolled psychoactive substances. Europe plays a leading role in tackling the “new drugs” phenomenon and we will continue to do so for the wellbeing and safety of our citizens.’

European drug report 2015 at www.emcdda.europa.eu