Cyprus Mail

Drugs claim 160 lives in ten years

Police removing the body of a person found dead from a drug overdose

NO LONGER will drug users be treated as criminals, but rather as persons needing help to beat their addiction, justice minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday.

In a statement, issued ahead of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (June 26), Ionas said that, under new legislation tabled to parliament, persons accused or convicted of drug use would no longer do jail time but rather sent to rehab centres.

“It will give these people the opportunity to kick their drug habit, without being stigmatised.”

Despite a series of drug busts by the police, authorities remain ever vigilant, said Nicolaou, as drug usage among youths remains high.

Between 2004 and 2014, some160 people in Cyprus died due to drug overdose. The main culprits were heroin and other opiates, reported KENTHEA, a non-governmental organisation against addictions.

Last year, 10 deaths occurred from overdose.

Heroin was the second most used addictive substance here. Over the last three years, there has been an increase in treatment requests for other opiates, like Oxycodone.

KENTHEA also struck a note of caution on the spread of contagious diseases from the use of needles, due to the fact that drug users are not strictly referred for medical tests. Yet according to the organisation’s data, one in four users in rehab has used drugs intravenously at least once.

In 2014, around 49 people were diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

Cocaine was the primary drug for around 10 per cent of substance abusers, and confiscations of the narcotic were on the rise, KENTHEA noted.

It said moreover that, on average, two new psychoactive substances are discovered every week in Europe. Over the last three, some 450 new such substances were identified.

In Cyprus, cannabis is the most widely used addictive substance. Usage, both in males and females, begins around the age of 20. Plus, the number of treatment requests for cannabis is on the rise.

“There is a perception among young people that cannabis is a harmless substance, something that is being propagated on the internet. We need to provide the public with objective information on this subject,” KENTHEA cautioned.

A study by Kings College in London, and published in The Lancet back in February, found that regular users of skunk – a potent strain of marijuana – were putting their mental health at risk. Daily users were five times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder than non-users but not a single person has ever died from a weed overdose.

According to a 1988 ruling from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the drug’s primary psychoactive compound) in a joint in order to be at risk of dying.

A 2009 study from American Scientist on the relative toxicity of recreational drugs showed that using only 10 times the “effective” dose of alcohol could be fatal, whereas more than 1,000 times the effective dose of marijuana would have to be used to be possibly fatal.

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