State has EU's most acute heroin problem


THE REPUBLIC has the most acute heroin problem in Europe and is also ranked in the top three European countries for drug-related deaths, according to new European Commission research.

The latest EU drug report also shows the Republic is still among the group of high-prevalence countries for cocaine use, although the use of cannabis by young people is not as high as many of our European neighbours.

Of the 17 nations for which figures were provided for problem opiate use, mainly heroin, Ireland was ranked highest.

There were just over seven cases of opiate use per 1,000 population here in the past year, with Luxembourg and Italy second and third respectively with just under six cases per 1,000 respondents.

The picture in relation to cocaine use is worse in other EU nations than in Ireland.

However, the Republic is still included in that group of countries where cocaine use is high, according to the new report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

In terms of cocaine use by Irish people in the 15-34 year category, 3.1 per cent reported consuming the drug in the past year.

This put Ireland in the group of four nations with the highest cocaine use, with the UK topping the list (4.8 per cent) and Spain in second (3.1 per cent).

In a global context, of 28 nations surveyed for cocaine use only the UK, Spain, the US, Australia and Croatia reported higher usage levels of the drug than the Republic.

The research in relation to cannabis use reveals Ireland is eighth of 12 EU nations surveyed. Just under 2 per cent of males in the 15-34 years age group surveyed reported daily or near daily use of the drug.

This compared with almost 8 per cent of young men in Spain and more than 5 per cent of young men in France; the two nationalities that reported the highest use of the drug.

The prevalence of ecstasy use in the Republic was higher in the European context than cannabis use. The Republic was once again in the “highest prevalence” group of nations, ranking third with 9 per cent of those aged 15-34 reporting having used the drug in their lifetime.

This compared to 13 per cent in the UK and just over 9 per cent in the Czech Republic.

The estimated mortality rate among Irish adults aged 15-64 years due to drug-induced deaths is second highest in the EU at almost 70 deaths per million. The average drug-related death rate in the EU is 21 per million.

Uniform surveys were not used for all nations to determine usage levels for the different drug types.

For example, the opiate prevalence rates for Ireland were determined on the basis of surveys carried out as far back as 2006. It takes no account of trends in the five-year period since then.

However, the opiate use research for second-placed Luxembourg is based on a 2007 study.