By Annette Chrysostomou
Cyprus will not remain unaffected by the flood of cocaine to the European market and an increase in the potency of cannabis, head of the National Addictions Authority (AAEK) Chrysanthos Georgiou said.
In his annual report to President Nicos Anastasiades, he said cannabis use in Cyprus was stable but noted that in 2017 general substance abuse led to six deaths.
Georgiou added however, that things were difficult “because some trends are being created across Europe,” referring to the amount of cocaine and the fact that cannabis circulating now is much more dangerous than the type of cannabis which existed in the past.
In statements after handing the report over to the president, Georgiou explained the data cover 2016.
In 2017, the authority was renamed to include addictions like betting and gambling, as is a European practice, and the report now includes those as well as drugs.
Georgiou also mentioned weaknesses which the state must address to help ease the problem.
He referred to the creation of a methadone programme in Cyprus to aid harm reduction, the signing of a protocol for minors and other actions involving ministries and society.
Cannabis remains the most common illicit substance in the population, with about 12 per cent of residents reporting that they have used it at least once in their lives. Most people who try the drug are in the age group of 18 to 22 years, while it is used predominantly by 15 to 34-year-old persons, 4.4 per cent of whom reported they used the drug in 2016.
Cocaine use is much lower, with 1.4 per cent of the population saying they have used it at least once.
There is more of it around, though. The addiction report mentions that in 2015 that 107 kilos were seized. In 2016 this number was significantly higher, 182 kilos.
Drug use has not increased much in recent years, with the percentage of those who used cannabis at least once going up from 11.5 per cent in 2009 to 12 per cent.
Cyprus has one of the lowest amount of drug users in Europe. Italy, Spain and France are countries where more than 15 per cent of 15 to 34-year-olds have used cannabis in the past year.
Research shows that weed has become more potent over the years. While the amount of THC, the substance responsible for the psychoactive effects of the drug was less than one per cent until 1978, the average nowadays is more than 3.5 per cent, with some strains much more potent.
Earlier this year the Times reported that the increased supply of cocaine and crack in Europe was caused by a bumper coca harvest in Colombia over the past two years.
“A surge in cocaine supply, driven by record production at source, caused a rise in crack purity and prompted drug-selling groups to seek out new markets,” the paper said.