European drugs observatory report

The European Observatory on Drugs and Drug Addiction is soon to release a report which will provide shocking statistics: 60% of the EU’s prison population were jailed because of drug offences. Half of the prisoners are, or were, consumers, and continue to have a ready supply of drugs in prison. In some prisons, it is estimated that up to 70% of the prisoners share syringes, increasing the risk of infection by HIV. The study is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Oldsburg in Germany and its results are likely to point towards the need for drastic measures to avoid a public health catastrophe within the prison population, given that up to 35% of prisoners are infected with HIV, TB or hepatitis B in many of the EU’s prisons. Risk reduction schemes such as the supply of clean needles is already in practice in some countries (Germany and Spain, for instance). In the European Union in general, the cost to governments for treatment of drugs-related illnesses amounts to 0.5% of the EU annual budget. Decriminalisation of drug consumption is another measure adopted in some member states. This measure has a double advantage of reducing the number of prisoners arrested for minor crimes, only to leave prison as hardened criminals, when a better treatment would be a detoxification and subsequent rehabilitation programme. Also, and of equal importance, this measure takes away the stimulus of committing an act against society and therefore makes the consumption of drugs less exciting for those wishing to subconsciously attack the establishment. The report will also publicise data on the latest studies into crime, but the information here is surprising. The relationship between heroin/cocaine-theft/burglary-trafficking/buying is confirmed, but the theory that violent crime is drugs related is false, and especially, the false perception that heroin produces violent criminals, is revealed. Heroin is the most consumed drug in the EU, reaching a percentage of 1% of the population in most countries. More violent reactions could be expected from crack cocaine consumers, although this drug is generally restricted to the larger cities of northern Europe, being more prevalent in the USA, Mexico and Brazil. New synthetic drugs are a major concern, according to this report. After the advent of Extasy, a synthetic drug much used (and misunderstood) by younger people, believing it to be a harmless stimulator of sexual prowess and a provider energy on the dance floor, others now follow. If Extasy is consumed with alcohol, there can be fatal side-effects and the cases of teenage deaths through consumption of this drug are many. A new family of synthetic drugs is on the rise, Ketamine and GHB being the newcomers. Ketamine is usually used as a liquid anaesthetic or an inhalable powder, producing opiate-type effects, namely a sleepiness and a calming feeling, well-being and relaxation. Such effects are normally short-lived, since the need for the drug increases weekly and eventually, within 6 months, the user passes into the phase of dependence, meaning that an ever-increasing dose has to be consumed simply to avoid withdrawal symptoms, side effects provoked through the lack of consumption, which are so painful that they can lead to suicide, or coma, in certain cases. Ketamine is also known as “K”, “KitKat”, “Cat Valium”, “Vitamin K” or “Super K” on the street. Some sell it as Extasy, although its effects will be the opposite. Instead of stimulating, it will act like a “downer”. GHB is another synthetic drug, used in alcohol rehabilitation programmes, combating the effect of delirium tremens and hallucinations with zoophytes experienced by people who are in alcohol detoxification treatment programmes. Again, a mood suppressor, it has an extremely negative effect on sexual performance and can also lead to coma and death. On the street, it is referred to as “easy lay” or the “date rape drug” because it is a white powder which can be dissolved in a drink, provoking a deep sleep in the victim. Cases in which this drug has been unknowingly administered to young ladies in discothиques, and in which they have lost consciousness and have woken up “too late” in a bed the following morning, are becoming frequent. A sinister new twist to the tale involving this drug was recently reported in Lisbon. A young man woke up in a bath, full of ice, with a mobile phone by his side and a note, saying “If you want to live, call this number”. He called it and when he looked at his abdomen, saw that one of his kidneys had been removed (and subsequently sold into the illegal organs market). The equation of human behaviour has one constant value, which is human vice. Agricultural societies all over the world use alcohol as the human body uses blood, and indeed part payment in alcohol is frequent in many countries even today. The relationship between drugs and crime has also existed for centuries. Since the 18th Century, the opium dens of European capitals were in fact places where clients and prostitutes consumed opium and then entered into their personalised contract for the sexual act. What has happened in the last thirty years is that cheap, hard drugs, have become available on a massive scale, destabilising society through street robberies and the rising number of AIDS cases. There is no easy solution but if educational programmes were more incisive, the market for such substances would not be there. The point is, why are our societies producing generations of young people who feel the need to take drugs to make love, to dance, to study, to work, or to think?


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