Greek market fills with ecstasy as recreational drugs replace alcohol to become mainstay of leisure activity

Every night in various parts of Greece, hundreds of young people will open the front doors of their homes with something well concealed in the back pocket of their pants. Whether it is MDMA, or «ecstasy,» LSD, speed, cocaine or whatever, one chemical substance or another is what sets the tone today for the entertainment of an entire generation. The use of synthetic drugs in Greece, chiefly by adolescents, is increasing by leaps and bounds, though statistics for the use of recreational drugs are hard to come by. Such substances are rarely disclosed to treatment centers, since they are taken as one drug among many (multiple drug use is typical of Greece). Club DJ Dimitris, 30, told Kathimerini that «in these places, at least 80 percent takes ecstasy.» Dance clubs are the places where these drugs are most frequently taken. The Greek Focal Point (EKTEPN) for the European Information Network on Drugs and Drug Addiction (Reitox) said in its 2001 report that ecstasy is second only to cannabis in popularity in places of entertainment (about one in four workers and patrons admitted to taking ecstasy, and one in seven to taking LSD). Ecstasy pills are cheap – one tablet costs no more than 15 euros – and are often consumed in lieu of alcohol. Slowly, however, the use of such substances is becoming disassociated from nightclubs – one-third of Greek school pupils who use ecstasy admit they took it even during football matches. «Five years ago, we weren’t interested in these pills,» the chief of the drugs squad, Anastassios Floros, said. «Now, we are plagued by them, like the rest of Europe.» The Greek police force first concerned itself with ecstasy in 1996, when they seized 650 tablets of the drug. In 2002, in Attica alone, 10,000 ecstasy pills were seized. At the end of January, 2003, the drugs squad broke up a large gang of ecstasy traffickers at nightclubs all over Athens. In their possession, gang members had 1,800 tablets of the drug. Floros noted that the last three years in particular have seen a rapid increase in the trafficking in recreational pills, which are easy and cheap to produce and difficult for authorities to discover. Nor can international gangs be broken up, given restrictions on customs checks in the eurozone. Currently, Europe is the chief source of illegally produced ecstasy, according to the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Floros feels that the substance will continue to concern the authorities for the next decade. «And for one more reason: The Taleban government, under agreement with the UN, destroyed many of its opium poppy crops. As a result, there is no longer as much heroin available, which inevitably will yield its place to other drugs.»