To improve understanding of the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug market in the Western Balkans, the European Drugs Agency (EMCDDA) published ad hoc publication Illicit drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans: Impact of COVID-19.
This report provides the main results of studies conducted using the trendspotter methodology to explore the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans.
Reported here are the findings of a rapid multidisciplinary expert opinion study to review the possible impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the drug market. The current situation is extremely dynamic.
The findings of the study should be interpreted with caution as they are based substantially on expert opinions gathered from law enforcement sources between September and October 2020, when the research was conducted. In general, very limited statistical or research data is available in the Western Balkan region on drug markets during this period. Therefore, the conclusions are necessarily preliminary and will require review as more data sources become available.
The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) publishes its European Drug Report 2021: Trends and Developments, the latest annual review of the drug situation in Europe. Based on data from 29 countries (EU 27, Turkey and Norway), the report offers new insights into the health and security implications of a complex and evolving drugs problem and of a drug market resilient to COVID-19 disruption.
The report warns of the risks to public health posed by the availability and use of a wider range of substances, often of high potency or purity. It also describes how organised crime groups have intensified illegal drug production inside Europe to evade anti-trafficking measures, creating environmental, health and security risks. Drawing on the latest EMCDDA rapid assessment study, the report explores the recent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug markets, use and services.
Presenting findings from the latest EMCDDA trendspotter study, the report illustrates how the drug market continues to adjust to COVID-19 disruption, as drug traffickers adapt to travel restrictions and border closures.
Key findings from the report include:
Cannabis use remains stable at high levels, but increased THC content raises health concerns — Rise observed in the THC content of cannabis resin (average range: 20%–28%). Health alerts warn of cannabis adulterated with highly-potent synthetic cannabinoids.
Record cocaine seizures, a worrying signal of potential for increased health harms — A record 213 tonnes were seized in 2019 (up from 177 tonnes in 2018). Cocaine purity has increased and more people are entering treatment for the first time. Preliminary seizure data in 2020 suggest availability has not declined in the pandemic.
Stable amphetamine demand makes domestic production near consumers profitable — Alongside the dismantling of production facilities in 2019, chemicals used to manufacture amphetamine were also seized in the EU, including 14 500 litres of BMK and 31 tonnes of MAPA (up from 7 tonnes in 2018).
Methamphetamine production and trafficking highlight potential for increased use in Europe — Both large-scale and smaller production facilities are being detected in Europe and large quantities of the drug are being transhipped through the EU to other markets.
Risks to health from supply of high-strength MDMA products — In addition to increases in the average MDMA content in tablets and the purity of powders, products with very high levels of MDMA are also being detected. Preliminary data from 2020 suggest there was less interest in this drug during periods of lockdown.
Harmful potent new psychoactive substances continue to emerge — Among these are new synthetic cannabinoids and new synthetic opioids. A total of 46 new psychoactive substances (NPS) were reported for the first time in Europe in 2020, bringing the total number monitored by EMCDDA to 830.
Are less commonly used drugs posing increasing challenges for public health? — These drugs include hallucinogens, ketamine and GHB. Worryingly, intensive patterns of use are reported in some settings.
Large heroin seizures signal potential for increased use and harms — Large volumes of heroin are still being seized in the EU (7.9 tonnes in 2019), raising concerns around the possible impact on levels of use.
Organised crime groups intensify illegal drug production within Europe — A total of 370 illegal laboratories were dismantled in 2019.
Drug law offences increase, with cannabis possession and supply predominant — An estimated 1.5 million drug law offences were reported in the EU in 2019; 82% were related to use or possession for personal use.
First-time treatment clients for heroin use continue to inject less — Although injecting drug use has been declining in Europe for the past decade, it remains a major cause of drug-related harms.
Scaling up treatment and prevention is required to reach HIV and HCV Sustainable Development Goals — Increased access to integrated testing and treatment services is an important part of reaching targets.
Overdose deaths driven by opioids and other drugs highlight need for service development — High-risk substance use and polydrug use continue to fuel drug-induced deaths in Europe.
From the EMCDDA, we have received an update regarding the 2021 European Drugs Summer School (EDSS) – organised by the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) in cooperation with the EMCDDA – which will take place online from 28 June until 9 July.
The course prepares professionals and students to meet the complex policy and practice challenges in the field of drugs. Involving scientific experts from the EMCDDA, university professors and policymakers, they provide a multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to the study of the drugs problem in Europe and beyond.
The two-week course will focus on Vulnerable groups. Sessions will include lectures on the prevention of drug-related problems; social determinants of drug use and interventions for vulnerable groups (homeless, prisoners, migrants). Virtual study visits will be organised to one of the Portuguese commissions for dissuasion as well as a local harm reduction centre. During the course, students will participate in interactive workshops to discuss their own projects and views. The course will conclude with an open debate with guest speakers, followed by an exam for those wishing to obtain credits.
Also this time, the EMCDDA-IPA7 project will provide for some limited bursaries to applicants from the Western Balkan countries
Interested candidates should register before 7 June next, directly at the ISCTE-IUL web site by using the blue ‘Register Now’ button. Successful candidates will be informed about their bursary acceptance during the week of 14-18 June 2021.
Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the way we live, with European countries having to introduce unprecedented measures to protect public health. As with all areas of life, drug consumption, related harms and drug markets have been impacted, as have the services established to respond to drug-related problems. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the EMCDDA instigated two rapid assessment studies to identify the initial impact and implications of COVID-19.
The EMCDDA releases today the third in a series of rapid ‘trendspotter’ studies exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the drug situation and responses to it. Revisiting and reviewing findings from two studies in 2020 on the effects of the pandemic on drug use and services, the report identifies new trends and developments which may have implications for policy and practice.
The report explores the situation in the EU Member States from June 2020 to February 2021, particularly changes in drug markets, patterns of use, harms and drug services, both in the community and in prisons.
The EMCDDA’s trendspotter methodology examines emerging drug-related trends by rapidly collecting and triangulating data from a variety of sources to allow for timely assessments of topics of concern. Specifically, for this COVID-19 impact study, the methodology was adapted to suit online investigation, taking into account the national emergency restrictions on both the EMCDDA team and the study participants. The study was designed to be carried out in successive waves.
The new analysis draws on a range of sources, including: three online surveys, eight virtual facilitated groups, data and literature reviews.
DPNSEE hosted the Webinar on EU Drugs Strategy 2021 – 2025 on Wednesday 24 March 2021. The Webinar was supported by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
The webinar was supposed to serve as a source of inspiration to support all those involved process of design, implementation and evaluation of drug strategies.
The EU Drugs Strategy 2021 – 2025 was presented by Danilo Ballotta, Coordinator – Institutional relations at the EMCDDA (link to Danilo’s presentation>>>).
Iga Jeziorska, from Youth Organisations for Drug Action, Chair of the Working Group on the EU Action Plan at the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (link to Iga’s presentation>>>) and Adrià Cots Fernández, Research and Advocacy Officer, International Drug Policy Consortium spoke about the civil society involvement in the process of designing the Strategy.
A more critical view on the Strategy was offered by Péter Sárosi from the Rights Reporter Foundation (link to Péter’s presentation>>>).
Discussions in three separate discussion rooms followed on three main pillars of the Strategy: Reducing supply (facilitated by Željko Petković, Assistant Director, Service for Combatting Drug Abuse at the Croatian Institute of Public Health), Reducing demand (facilitated by Matej Košir, Deputy Chairperson, Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, UTRIP Institute, Slovenia) and Harm reduction (facilitated by Marios Atzemis, DPNSEE Board member, European AIDS Treatment Group Greece).
More than 70 representatives of governmental organisations, both on national and local level, academia, civil society organisations, international organisations and donor community participated.
The Webinar offered a comprehensive and interesting insight into the Strategy and caused an interesting discussion and exchange of views.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) invite you to participate in the webinar that will provide information on the new European Union drug strategy.
The EU Council approved the EU Drugs Strategy on 18 December 2020 setting out the political framework and priorities for the EU’s drug policy in the period 2021-2025. The strategy aims to ensure a high level of health promotion, social stability and security and contribute to awareness raising. On the basis of this strategy, the Council will prepare an action plan which will set out concrete measures to achieve these priorities.
With this strategy, the EU and its member states reaffirm their commitment to an approach which is based on evidence, comprehensive and balanced between demand and supply reduction of drugs, with the preservation of human rights at its core. At the same time, this strategy uses the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis in the drugs area and takes a future-oriented approach, promoting research, innovation and foresight to respond more effectively to increasing challenges and to anticipate them.
The webinar may serve as a source of inspiration to support all those involved process of design, implementation and evaluation of drug strategies. It is especially suitable for regional drug strategy makers, regional civil society groups, European and other interested participants.
The EU Drugs Strategy 2021 – 2025 will be presented by Danilo Ballotta, Coordinator – Institutional relations at the EMCDDA.
We also expect inputs from the civil society activists. The full list of speakers will be published before the webinar.
The Webinar will be held via Zoom on Wednesday 24 March 2021 starting at 13:00 CET. The Webinar will last for 90 minutes.
The Webinar will be delivered in English, with translation into Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian. We are exploring opportunities for translation into other languages of South East Europe.
As the number of participants is limited, please register by Tuesday 23 March using the following link>>>.
The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launched today the European Web Survey on Drugs 2021. Targeted at people, aged 18 and over, who have used drugs, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use in Europe and help shape future drug policies and interventions.
The voluntary, anonymous survey – one of the agency’s targeted ‘leading-edge’ monitoring methods – will run this year in 31 countries and 28 languages. As in previous years, it will be promoted nationally by the Reitox focal points and their partners, as well as through targeted social media advertisements.
In 2016, the first European Web Survey on Drugs was launched. It ran in 16 countries and more than 80 000 people participated. In 2021, this survey will run in over 30 EU and neighbouring countries!
New to this year’s round is the participation of the agency’s partners from the Western Balkans and the European Neighbourhood Policy area through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) and EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) projects.
The new questionnaire, which will run for six weeks, is structured in modules on: socio-demographics, drug using patterns, access to treatment, access to drugs (amounts usually bought and prices paid) and how COVID-19 has affected patterns of drug use. Its findings will contribute to the emerging knowledge base on drug-using practices in Europe and on the quantities of drugs used. This will help enhance market size estimates at national and European level and contribute to policy development more widely.
DPNSEE and Trimbos Institute hosted the Webinar “Drug Policy evaluations: opportunities to support inclusive, effective and evidence-based public policy” on Wednesday 10 February 2021. The aim of the Webinar was to provide information on drug policy evaluation as an effective instrument to guide, manage and support effective policies and services.
The Webinar included an introduction on drug policy evaluations and presentations on approach and methods and experiences from the evaluations performed in Croatia and Cyprus. Discussions in three separate discussion rooms followed on different segments of a policy/strategy cycle.
More than 90 representatives of governmental organisations, both on national and local level, academia, civil society organisations, coming from 31 countries, and international organisations participated.
The presentations from the Conference are ready to download:
Introduction to drug policy evaluation: Liesbeth Vandam, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction following this link>>>
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe and Trimbos Institute invite you to participate in the webinar that will provide information on drug policy evaluation as an effective instrument to guide, manage and support effective policies and services. The Webinar is supported by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs.
The Webinar will present an insight on how various actors can contribute to a process of monitoring and evaluation of drug policies and can benefit from. It will:
showcase the benefits of drug policy evaluations
provide examples of recent regional drug policy (e.g. Croatia, Cyprus)
provide opportunities of online evaluations
The webinar may serve as a source of inspiration to support all those involved process of building better drug policies. It is especially suitable for regional drug policy makers, regional civil society groups, European and other interested participants.
The Plenary introductions will include:
Introduction on drug policy evaluations
Drug Policy evaluations: approach and methods
Benefits from independent evaluation
Experiences from online/hybrid evaluation.
Three parallel breakout sessions will follow on What is needed to prepare a national drug policy?, How to monitor progress? and How to learn from and improve policies?
The Webinar will be held via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86598224178 on Wednesday 10 February 2021 starting at 14:00 CET. The Webinar will last for 120 minutes.
As the number of participants is limited, please register by Monday 8 February using the form attached here>>>.
The latest European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) report, published in collaboration with the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA), was presented on 12 November 2020. ESPAD is a collaborative network of independent research teams in over 40 European countries and the largest cross-national research project on adolescent substance use in the world. It is coordinated by the ESPAD Italian team at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IFC).
This report presents the results from the seventh wave of data collection, conducted in 35 countries during the spring and autumn of 2019. That includes nine out of 11 South East European countries – all except Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina. A total of 99 647 pupils participated in the latest survey round, responding to an anonymous questionnaire.
It gives a comprehensive picture of the present situation among European young people as regards the use of cigarettes, alcohol, illicit drugs, inhalants, new psychoactive substances and pharmaceuticals, but also insights into gambling, social media use and gaming. The report also presents an overview of trends over the time period 1995-2019.
The latest survey shows that, on average, one in six school pupils (17 per cent) reported having used an illicit drug at least once in their life, with levels varying considerably across the ESPAD countries (range: 4.2 per cent–29 per cent). Lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use in this group has been declining slightly since 2011, although has been generally stable over the past two decades. The non-medical use of prescription drugs among adolescents remains a concern, the statement said.
Cannabis is still the illicit drug most used by school pupils in ESPAD countries. On average, 16 per cent of respondents reported using cannabis at least once in their lifetime (11 per cent in 1995), while 7.1 per cent reported last-month use (4.1 per cent in 1995).
Alcohol use remains high among adolescents in Europe, with an average of over three-quarters (79 per cent) of school pupils having used alcohol in their lifetime and almost half (47 per cent) having used it in the last month. The prevalence of “heavy episodic drinking” reached its lowest level in the 2019 survey (35 per cent), following a peak in 2007 (43 per cent). Changes in drinking regulations at national level may have contributed to the decline in alcohol use among young people, the statement said.
Positive developments are also seen with regard to teenage smoking, against a backdrop of tobacco policy measures introduced over the last two decades. Between 1995 and 2019, ESPAD averages for cigarette use declined for lifetime use (68 per cent to 42 per cent); current use (33 per cent to 20 per cent) and daily use (20 per cent to 10 per cent). New data reveal high prevalence of e-cigarette smoking — 40 per cent for lifetime use and 14 per cent for last-month use — with those who have never smoked cigarettes (‘never smokers’) reporting higher rates of this behaviour than ‘occasional smokers’ and ‘regular smokers’.
The 2019 ESPAD results show that gambling for money has become a popular activity among school pupils in Europe, with 22 per cent of respondents reporting gambling on at least one game in the past 12 months (predominantly lotteries). Around 60 per cent of respondents reported having played digital games on a typical school day within the last month (69 per cent on a non-school day). In most countries, boys spend twice as much time gaming as girls.
Around 94 per cent of respondents reported use of social media in the past week. On average, users spent two to three hours on social media on a typical school day, rising to six or more hours on non-school days. In most countries, girls reported using social media on non-school days more frequently than boys.
Source data in Excel format has been split into two separate archives: (1) data used to generate graphics and tables in the main report and (2) additional tables with more results not presented in the main report.