Vice Squad
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Drugs in Europe

Yesterday I received my copy of the 2003 Annual Report from
the European Union's drug information arm, the Lisbon-based
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. An
expanded, on-line version of the report is available here --
this is the English verison, though it is available in eleven
other languages, including Norwegian.

The report is chock-full of information on all aspects of drugs,
including usage rates, availability, crime, treatment, and so
on. I can't do justice to the report here, but I will offer a
sample that includes a comparison with the US:

"Drug use (in terms of both lifetime experience and recent use) is higher among young adults than among the population as a whole. Recent cannabis use is reported by 5-20 % of young adults (Sweden 1-2 %), with a substantial number of countries (seven) reporting rates between 10 % and 20 % (Figure 1). Recent amphetamine use is generally reported by 0.6 %, cocaine use by 0.5-4.5 % and ecstasy use by 0.5-5 % (Figure 2).

For comparison, in the 2001 United States national household survey on drug abuse, 36.9 % of adults (12 years and older) reported lifetime experience of cannabis, 12.3 % lifetime experience of cocaine and 3.6 % lifetime experience of ecstasy. Recent (last 12 months) cannabis use was reported by 9.3 %, cocaine use by 1.9 % and ecstasy use by 1.4 % (6). Cannabis lifetime experience and recent use are higher in the United States than in any EU country. Cocaine lifetime experience is also higher in the United States than in any EU country, and recent use is higher than in most countries, except Spain (2.6 %) and the United Kingdom (2.0 %). Ecstasy use is higher than in all EU countries except Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom."

Four EU countries (Italy, Spain, Netherlands, and Portugal) have
decriminalized drugs for adult users, i.e., they do not threaten
users with jail. (Note: Do Not Rely Upon This Information! Like
everything in this blog, it might be wrong, wrong, wrong!) This
decriminalization applies to all drugs, not just cannabis. Surely
these countries are doomed! They have adopted crazy drug
policies! Except that somehow, these countries seem to be
managing quite well, without locking up hundreds of thousands
of drug users. Hmmmm. Well, I'll just leave it at that, an
inexplicable conundrum.

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