12:07 GMT15 June 2021
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    The latest annual European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report indicates fatalities linked to drug use across Europe have increased for the third consecutive year – and around one in three drugs overdoses recorded in Europe occurred in the UK.

    EMCDDA's report spells out in stark terms the sheer scale of the UK's nationwide drug problem — the country is home to Europe's highest proportion of cocaine and heroin users, and heroin addicts.

    Drug-induced death is the fifth most common cause of preventable death among 15- to 49-year-old British citizens, and in 2014, the United Kingdom reported a record number of drug-induced deaths — 60.3 deaths per million citizens, almost three times the most recent European average of 20.3 deaths per million.

    ​Due to delays in the registration of deaths, figures for 2015 are unavailable, although available data suggests a further increase is likely.

    While heroin is the chief killer, other drugs such as amphetamines, benzodiazepines and cocaine are also common slayers.

    In 2013/14, hospital inpatient data showed that 41 628 inpatient discharges recorded poisoning by drugs in the UK, which was an increase from 2012/13. The majority were due to other opioids including morphine and codeine, and this number has increased every year since 2008.

    ​Drug users and addicts in the UK fortunate enough to escape fatality may however contract diseases through their habits.

    In 2016, 182 new cases of HIV resulting from intravenous drug use were identified by health authorities, an increase from 146 in 2014. The overall prevalence of HIV amongst drug injectors in 2015 is higher than in the late 1990s, and it's estimated around 90 percent of all cases of hepatitis C infections in the UK result from such activities.

    There have even been sporadic cases of anthrax, tetanus and wound botulism reported among intravenous drug users in the UK, and 2015 saw an outbreak of botulism in Scotland, the largest cluster of the disease identified among people who inject drugs in Europe.

    ​Nonetheless, drug use in the UK has declined over the last 10 years overall. Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug, while cocaine is the second most prevalent. Cannabis is also Europe's most commonly used illicit drug overall, with at least 88 million adults consuming it last year.

    While the UK is Europe's illicit drug capital, dabbling is prevalent across the continent — over 93 million Europeans have tried an illicit drug in their lives, and drug deaths are rising in many other countries.

    In 2015, there were a total of 8,441 fatal overdoses, a six percent increase on 2014.

    ​The UK accounted for 31 percent of those deaths, with Germany in second place on 15 percent. Although the EMCDDA noted there could be under-reporting in some countries, it also said the size of Britain and Germany's at-risk populations were a major contributing factor to their high rankings.

    Still, Estonia has the highest mortality rate linked to drug overdose, with 103 deaths per million people, followed by Sweden at 100, Norway at 76, and Ireland at 71. Most of the fatalities are male.

    The figures are influenced, in part, by national practices of reporting deaths, as well as recording information and entering overdose cases in national mortality databases, the report notes. Complicating the picture, in some countries, deaths from legal opioids exceed those of heroin —methadone-related deaths outstripped heroin-related deaths in Croatia, Denmark, France and Ireland.

    ​Despite moves to ban synthetic opioids, in 2016 66 new psychoactive substances were detected by the European Early Warning System, a rate of over one per week. More were detected in 2015, but the report says the overall availability of these substances remains high. New and more restrictive laws in some EU states may have also had an effect on the slowing detection rates.

    Fentanyl, sometimes more powerful than heroin, represented some 60 percent of the 600 seizures of new synthetic opioids in 2016.


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    drug use, recreational drug use, drug addiction, public health, cocaine, death, drugs, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Europe
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