By Constantinos Psillides
WORRYING reports are emerging from south-east Europe – Greece, Cyprus and Turkey – that crystal methamphetamine smoking is a limited, but emerging, problem, with the possibility of a spread among vulnerable populations, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said yesterday.
In its annual review of drug issues in Europe, the report revealed that in 2012, five drug-induced deaths were recorded in Cyprus. Numbers have been relatively stable over the last eight years, it said.
Of the four deaths in 2012, four were young men, said the report. The mean age of the deceased was 30 years and all recorded death cases involved opiates, as confirmed by toxicological results.
The drug-induced mortality rates among adults (aged 15–64) in Cyprus was 8.2 deaths per million in 2012, well below the European average of 17.1 deaths per million.
Data on mortality among drug users is now however available in Cyprus, despite discussions initiated some years ago about the possibility of carrying out longitudinal mortality studies, said the review.
In line with its concerns over the growing use of crystal meth, the report said the number of seizures involving methamphetamine in Cyprus doubled in 2012 compared to 2011, and 400g of the substance was seized. As in the previous year, in 2012 a number of seizures involved some 18 new psychoactive substances.
In 2012 the third general population survey was carried out in Cyprus on licit and illicit substance use. The previous surveys were carried out in 2006 and 2009. The sample comprised 3,500 respondents aged 15–64 who were Greek speakers residing in government-controlled areas.
Cannabis remained the most prevalent illicit substance used; however, there were indications of a decrease when compared with the 2009 survey data. Among 15-34 year-olds the prevalence was 4.2 per cent compared to 7.9 per cent 2009. Based on the 2012 general population study data, it is estimated that about 0.2 per cent of 15- to 64-year-olds in Cyprus are daily or almost daily cannabis users.
Cocaine was the second most prevalent drug reported in 2009 and 2012.
“A strong link between gender and illicit drug use was re-confirmed in 2012, with males having higher prevalence rates for all drugs,” the report said.
The 2012 survey indicated the mean age of cannabis experimentation was 18–20 years, “which coincides with an obligatory enrolment to and release from a National Guard service for all men”.
According to EMCDDA, Europe’s drug problem is becoming more complex.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom said that she was deeply concerned that the drugs consumed in Europe today may be even more damaging to users’ health than in the past.
“There are signs that the ecstasy and cannabis sold on the street are getting stronger. I also note that the EU Early Warning System, our first line of defence against emerging drugs, is coming under growing pressure as the number and diversity of substances continue to rise sharply. The system has already reviewed this year four new substances linked to acute intoxications and deaths in the Member States,” she said.
The report notes a drop in heroin use in the EU, which was replaced by synthetic opioids.
Overall, around 6,100 overdose deaths, mainly related to opioids, were reported in Europe in 2012. This compares to 6,500 reported in 2011 and 7,100 cases in 2009.
Rates of over 50 deaths per million were reported in five countries, with the highest rates reported in Estonia (191 per million) and Norway (76 per million), followed by Ireland (70 per million), Sweden (63 per million) and Finland (58 per million).