Fewer drug hauls, related deaths

There has been a drop in seizures of cannabis, cocaine and heroin in Greece and in drug-related deaths, but there has been a rise in the amount of «synthetic» drugs being confiscated, according to a police report for 2003, made public yesterday. The amount of cannabis seized by police last year was 6.9 tons less than in 2002, with 77.2 kilos less in heroin seizures and 38.8 kilos less in cocaine hauls over the same period, the report showed. However, the number of ecstasy pills seized last year was 18,925 above the figure for the previous year. The report also recorded a 22 percent drop in the number of drug-related deaths in Greece, from 259 deaths in 2002 to 202 last year. There had been a steady increase in drug-related deaths from 1994 to 2001, according to the report which did not clarify which drugs had provoked the most deaths. Of 158 suspected members of 30 drug rings investigated by police last year, 118 ended up facing criminal charges, the report said, adding that most of these rings were headed by Greeks and Albanians. The report also noted that Albanians, who until 1996 had been chiefly involved with trading cannabis, have been implicated in the largest heroin hauls. Albania remains the chief country of origin of cannabis smuggled into Greece, it added. The report predicted that the use of «synthetic» drugs, such as ecstasy, will increase over the next few years. It also noted that police last year confiscated small quantities of drugs appearing in Greece for the first time, such as crystalline methamphetamine (more commonly known as «ice») and oxycodone.