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Europe has almost 23 million users of cannabis, the most consumed of all illicit substances

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Cannabis continues to be, by far, the most consumed illicit substance in Europe. These are the conclusions of the “European Drug Report 2024 – Trends and Developments”, released today in Lisbon by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and which is based on information from the previous year provided by Member States (plus the Turkey and Norway). National surveys on cannabis use suggest that, globally, around 8% of European adults (22,8 million aged between 15 and 64) used cannabis in the last year.o, with the number increasing to 85,4 million people (29,9%) throughout their lives.

“We are noticing significant developments in the cannabis market. Taken together, all of this means that there continues to be a pressing need to better understand the potential harms associated with different patterns of cannabis use and the implications this raises for policies and practices”, says the report.

There is a need to better understand which responses are effective
It is estimated that around 1,3% of adults in the European Union (3,7 million people) are daily or almost daily users of cannabis, this being “the group most likely to have problems associated with this substance”, warns the report. According to the Observatory, “cannabis use can cause or worsen a range of physical and mental health problems, including chronic respiratory symptoms, cannabis dependence and psychotic symptoms. Additionally, studies have found that regular cannabis use may be associated with poorer school performance and an increased risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. The problems are more associated with the early start of consumption, high-potency products and more regular and long-term consumption patterns”, states the document.

The EMCDDA also highlights the need to better understand the types of “problems” faced by cannabis users, as well as what appropriate referral pathways and effective treatment options are for those with cannabis-related problems. “Cannabis is considered responsible for more than a third of all admissions for drug treatment in Europe. This finding is difficult to interpret, in part due to the wide variety of interventions provided to cannabis users, which may include brief interventions or directive referrals from the criminal justice system. More work is needed to better understand the type of services offered to people with cannabis problems. However, the information that does exist suggests that psychosocial treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are commonly offered and that online health interventions appear to be increasingly available,” the report reads.

Assessing the risk of harm in this area is complicated by the apparently “growing range of cannabis-based products potentially available to consumers,” which may include edibles, high-potency products, and various derivatives. “This diversity may have implications for an individual’s risk of cannabis use problems and is therefore an area that requires further research and regulatory attention.”

Overall, the number of people entering treatment for cannabis-related problems for the first time remained relatively stable until 2019, before declining during the pandemic, and did not return to pre-pandemic levels in most EU Member States until 2022.

Seizures indicate that trafficking routes may be diversifying
Cannabis seizures generally continued at historically high levels in 2022, indicating “the high availability of this drug”. However, the total amount of cannabis resin seized in the European Union has decreased significantly, largely due to a decrease in seizures reported by Spain. “It is possible that this reflects an adaptation in supply routes by those involved in the trafficking of cannabis resin from North Africa to Europe, in response to anti-trafficking measures taken by the Spanish authorities”, reflects the report. In this context, it is also interesting to note that, since 2019, the volume of herbal cannabis seized has increased significantly in Spain.

“In 2022, Spain was responsible for 69% of all resin seized, 47% of all herbal cannabis seized and 81% of the total number of cannabis plants declared seized in the European Union, underlining the significant role played by Spain, as much as transit country country for cannabis trafficking and as a production area. However, it is important to note that significant cannabis production also occurs elsewhere in the European Union. The recent large seizures highlight the role that Spain continues to play as a transit country for resin destined for the European market. In 2023, for example, Spanish authorities seized 22 tons of cannabis resin hidden in fake tomato packaging, suspected of being destined for trafficking to France.

Other substances consumed in Europe

Cocaine is the second most consumed illicit substance in Europe, having been used last year by four million people (1,4%) between the ages of 15 and 64, increasing to 15,4 million (5,4%) per year. lifelong.

With regard to MDMA (ecstasy), the numbers point to 2,9 million (1%) aged between 15 and 65 years old, rising to 12,3 million (4,3%) who responded about their consumption lifelong.

Amphetamines were consumed in the last year by 2,3 million (0,8%) adults aged between 15 and 64, increasing to 10,3 million (3,6%) throughout their lives.

Heroin (the most commonly used illicit opioid in Europe) and other synthetic opioids were used by 860.000 high-risk people. In 2022, 513 thousand consumers were in opioid substitution treatment, this being the drug that represents around 24% of treatment requests in the EU. The same substance is found in 74% of overdose deaths.

See the full report here:
EMCDDA-2024-31813_en

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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With a degree in Journalism from the University of Coimbra, Laura Ramos has a postgraduate degree in Photography and has been a Journalist since 1998. She was a correspondent for Jornal de Notícias in Rome, Italy, and Press Advisor at the Office of the Minister of Education. She has an international certification in Permaculture (PDC) and created the street-art photographic archive “What says Lisbon?” @saywhatlisbon. Laura is currently Editor of CannaReporter and CannaZine, as well as founder and program director of PTMC - Portugal Medical Cannabis. She directed the documentary “Pacientes” and was part of the steering group of the first Postgraduate in GxP's for Medicinal Cannabis in Portugal, in partnership with the Military Laboratory and the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Lisbon.

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