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In Europe, 24 million of 15-34 young people are using psychoactive drugs

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Popularized in the 1960’s by artists and mass media such as : “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (LSD) by the Beatles, “Cocaine” by J.J. Cale, “Purple Haze” (cannabis) by Jimmy Hendrix, etc., drugs use have extensively developed to become part of our culture since the middle of the last century with the psychedelic musics, the Beat Generation (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady, etc.), the psychologist Timothy Leary “pope of the LSD” and the counter-cultural hippie movement. Drugs invaded all the aspects of society, becoming a symbol of rebellion among the youth, a political, cultural and social dissent and a new style of life. On the last 2020 European Drug Report of EMCDDA mentioned that in Europe, 24 million young people are using psychoactive drugs, of which 18 million use cannabis.

The problem

The main drug used in Europe is the cannabis with marijuana and hashish as joint, bong (smoked), the bhang (a drink) and used in Space cakes. For the youth, cannabis is the entrance door to the world of drugs. If initially it was used as a “soft drug” or “recreative drug” with a 0,2% of THC (the liposoluble psychoactive substance), rapidly with genetic engineering technics it reached a 20-30 % THC range with a toxicity level interfering with many vital functions of the body and worse for children.

Despite the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of the UNODC classifying cannabis on Schedule IV, decades of lobbying and challenges by vested interests, with WHO Recommendations, acting to declassify cannabis and related cannabinoids, it was agreed on December 2, 2020, thanks to some wise government representatives, UNODC, INCB and experts to only re-reclassify cannabis in Schedule I, so, still under control and only accessible for scientific and medical purpose.

The last 2020 European Drug Report of EMCDDA mentioned that in Europe, 24 million of 15-34 young people are using psychoactive drugs (with 18 million of cannabis users) and it is estimated that at least 9,000 overdose deaths occurred, the mean age being 42 but starting at 15 years old.

This report also put the stress on the overall high social costs of drugs supported by the society, going far beyond the use of the drugs themselves:

  • for the public health with healthcare and treatment: 135 000 people entered treatment related to cannabis use,
  • for the public safety: traffic accidents, gangs, crimes, terrorism,
  • for the lost in labor productivity, money laundering,
  • for undermining states governance by corruption of officials,
  • for the degradation of environment due to waste toxic chemicals, deforestation, soil degradation and water issues .

Moreover, the drug market in Europe is increasing. It represents a minimum of 30 billion Euros per year shared as: some 12 billion for cannabis (39% of the EU drug market ) coming from Morocco and EU; 9 billion for cocaine (31%) from Central and South America; 7,5 billion for heroin/opioids (25%) from Afghanistan; 1 billion for amphetamine and methamphetamine and 0,5 billion for MDMA (5%) from the EU, Middle East (captagon) and Africa.

In addition currently, some 730 new psychoactive substances (NPS) are found on the European retail market, gathering the synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines.

And more, the drug market is linked with criminal activities such as human trafficking (sexual exploitation, forced labor, organ harvesting), child exploitation and migrant smuggling.

The solution

A lot has been discussed about the drug problem, Conventions were written and signed by governments, including on the drug protection of the most vulnerable: the children (CRC article 33, 1989).

What is missing is a basic Education on the drug subject: what they are and what they do. This should be set up as an early primary prevention education, before the youth are contacted by the dealers boasting of the illusory quality of their products in order to better trap the ignorant and by omitting to talk about the following disastrous use consequences. This education is first under the responsibility of the parents, then the surrounding civil society and above all implemented by the government, when not serving special interests.

Leonardo da Vinci said already in the 15th century: It is ignorance that blinds us and misleads us and Will Durant in the 20th century added: Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

To educate the youth and empower them against the harmful effects of drug use are the main priorities of the Foundation for a Drug Free Europe and its hundred associations and groups across twenty European countries, through the Drug Education Prevention Program The Truth About Drugs which are cooperating with more and more countries in the world to put an end to the production by putting and end to the demand. More information about the organization at: www.fdfe.eu

  • UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • WHO: World Health Organization
  • INCB: International Narcotics Control Board
  • EMCDDA: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
  • CRC: Convention on the Rights of the Child
Christian Mirre

PhD. in Sciences, holds a Doctorat d'Etat ès Sciences from the University of Marseille-Luminy and has been a long term biologist at the French CNRS's Section of Life Sciences. Currently, representative of the Foundation for a Drug Free Europe.

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