Dublin: Ireland Among The Worst In Europe For Drug Deaths: UN REPORT: UPDATED

23 Jun

Ireland has one of the highest levels of drug-related deaths in Europe, according to a United Nations report on the global drug market.

It shows that Ukraine, Iceland and Ireland experienced some of the highest mortality rates in Europe, with over 100 drug-related deaths per  million inhabitants aged between 15 and 64.

These figures are twice the European average, although the report says some countries may be significantly underestimating the number of deaths.

The World Drug Report 2011 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also shows that while the heroin problem is stabilising in most European countries, prevalence rates appear to be increasing slightly in Ireland and Sweden. However, opiate use is still more prevalent in the UK and almost twice as prevalent in eastern European countries such as Latvia and Estonia.

Ireland also figured prominently when it came to cocaine use. Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK were listed as having the highest rates of prevalence of the drug.

Health Research Board senior researcher Dr Suzi Lyons said the figures on drug deaths accurately reflected the problem in Ireland. However, she said one of the reasons the Irish rate was significantly higher than many other countries was because their monitoring systems were not as comprehensive.

Dr Lyons also urged caution in interpreting the figures for drug prevalence, noting that some information related to data collected up to five years ago.

The UN’s figures also show dramatic differences in the price of drugs across the world depending on the distance it has travelled and how many times it has changed hands. It was most expensive in Australia and the US, although there are major difference within Europe. In Ireland the typical cost of a gram of heroin in 2009 was €147, compared to €48 in the UK and €23 in Belgium.

In general, the UN report indicates that between 3 and 6 per cent of the world’s population used illicit substances at least once during the previous year.

Cannabis was by far the most widely used illicit drug consumed in Ireland and the rest of the world, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants like ecstasy and opiates such as heroin.

While there were stable or downward trends for heroin and cocaine use across the globe, the report said this was being offset by increases in the use of “legal highs” and prescription drugs. There was a significant reduction in global opium production in 2010 as a result of disease in opium poppy plants in Afghanistan.

Officials also say there was a significant decline in potential cocaine manufacturing, reflecting falling cocaine production in Colombia. This was offset by increases Peru and Bolivia.

The production of amphetamine-type stimulants and cannabis is more difficult to estimate because they are produced in dozens of countries.

Most cannabis seizures in Europe originated primarily in Morocco, but there has been growing evidence of production closed to home. Some 29 European countries – including Ireland – reported domestic cultivation of cannabis herb during 2008.

In contrast to most parts of the world, non-medical use of prescription drugs has not been regarded as a major problem in Europe so far. The highest levels of non-medical use of prescription opioids – drugs with morphine-like effects – have been reported from Northern Ireland.

Other countries in Europe reporting a substantial proportion of treatment demand for sedatives and tranquilisers are found among the Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Finland.

School pupils’ drug use ‘increases’ | 23/11/2006

Drugs death-rate fourth-highest in Europe – report | 06/11/2008

One in 25 people use cannabis | 16/10/2009

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

NEWS UPDATE:

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press George Jahn, Associated Press :

VIENNA – World opium production decreased sharply last year due to a blight in Afghanistan but is expected to rebound, and coca growing and cocaine production also fell, the United Nations reported Thursday.

Still, the United States remained the biggest market for cocaine in the world, and European cocaine demand was rapidly catching up, the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its annual report.

Global coca cultivation fell by one-sixth in 2010, accompanied by a significant drop in cocaine production in Colombia, a major supplier.

The agency said nearly 5 percent of the world’s population took illicit drugs at least once in the previous year, with many users turning from traditional opiates to synthetic and prescription drugs.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted the ties between the world’s illicit drug market and terrorism and world unrest in a statement accompanying the report.

“The $61 billion (euro42.4 billion) annual market for Afghan opiates is funding insurgency, international terrorism and wider destabilization,” Ban said. “In West Africa, the $85 billion (euro58 billion) global cocaine trade is exacerbating addiction and money-laundering while fueling political instability and threats to security.

“Every $1 billion (euro695 million) of pure cocaine trafficked through West Africa earns more than 10 times as much when sold on the streets in Europe.”

The report listed cannabis as the most widely produced and consumed illicit drug, saying up to 203 million people — about 4.5 percent of the world population — took it at least once over a 12-month period.

Opium production declined 38 percent last year due to the blight that wiped out much of the harvest in Afghanistan. Making up for some of the shortfall was Myanmar, where cultivation rose about 20 percent in 2010, giving that country a 12 percent share in world production.

While poor yields resulted in a 45 percent decline in global opium production between 2007 and 2010, that reversal appears temporary, the agency said. Agency chief Yuri Fedotov predicted a likely “rebound to high levels in 2011.”

For cocaine, the United States remained the biggest market, with consumption estimated at 157 tons in 2009 — equal to 36 percent of the global share. Europe, particularly Western and Central Europe, were second in terms of market share, with an estimated consumption of 123 tons.

The U.N. agency noted “massive declines in recent years” of overall world cocaine use. Still, it said consumption in Europe had doubled over the past decade — with the estimated value of the European cocaine market at $36 billion (euro25 billion) a year, approaching that of the United States at $37 billion (euro25.7 billion).

With many nations fighting drug production and trafficking, users are turning to so-called “legal highs” — substitutes for illicit stimulants such as cocaine or ecstasy. The use of highly addictive methamphetamine is increasing in East Asia and figures from 2009 also show a rebound in North America after several years of decline.

Methamphetamine contributed to a record in synthetic drug seizures in 2009, with nearly 16 tons of that substance discovered by law enforcement agencies compared to less than 12 tons in the previous year.

“Drugs cause some 200,000 deaths a year,” said Fedotov. “Since people with serious drug problems provide the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem is one of the best ways of shrinking the market.”

U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske emphasized the positive — reduced use and production of some narcotics — in his comments, while urging continued international cooperation to fight trafficking and addiction.

“Today’s report confirms that comprehensive efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences have a tremendous impact on making our communities healthier and safer,” said Kerlikowske, the director of U.S. national drug control policy.

“Confronting the global drug problem — including the prescription drug abuse epidemic — is a shared responsibility that requires a sustained and comprehensive approach.”

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