OPINION

Editorial

The conclusions released by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in their 2001 annual report on the drug problem in the EU, are, without a doubt, cause for serious concern. First, there is an increase in the use of hard drugs, especially that of cocaine.This is because the traditional boundaries of cocaine use in the EU, which separate prosperous users of cocaine in powder-form from the fringe addicts of lower quality, crack-based cocaine through intravenous injection or smoking, have blurred. There are cities and regions in the EU where cocaine use has climbed to second place after cannabis. What is more alarming is that a growing number of socially integrated youth take cocaine in combination with alcohol in nightclubs. The increased use of synthetic drugs, which not only circulate, but are also produced within Europe, is even worse. The Netherlands is both the top ecstasy exporter and importer, while EU candidates – Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries and Bulgaria – all play a key role in the trafficking and transit of drugs into the EU. The EMCDDA points out the high percentage of ecstasy use among socially integrated groups and its role in youth culture. Such drugs are increasingly popular in nightclubs and at private social occasions. Apart from the ill effects on mental health, there are also clear repercussions on physical health. Infection by the HIV virus seems to be on the upsurge in at least six of the 15 EU countries – the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg. The situation seems to be much worse as regards the infection of drug users by the hepatitis C virus which is at a particularly high level across the EU, ranging from 40 to even 90 percent among intravenous drug users. There is growing concern over the dangers stemming from the prolonged use of the ecstasy pill, particularly due to the damage it causes the human brain. One could never exhaust the list of the negative consequences of drug-use. It would be unfair to dismiss the huge efforts made by EU countries to provide users with economic and psychological support or the changing legal framework. Unfortunately, the problem is worsening due to deeper social causes. The emptiness of human life, intense social pressure, a lack of ideals, the aggrandizement of bad habits, impoverishment and social exclusion, all foster this greatest plight of the modern age.