Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jun 2010
Source: Independent (Malta)
Copyright: 2010, Standard Publications Ltd
Author: Annaliza Borg
Referenced: World Drug Report 2010

Drug Use Among Students on the Rise


Malta has the eighth-highest estimated level of problem drug use in
the EU, according to the recently published World Drug Report 2010.

Compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the report
makes reference to several reports including ESPAD and the EMCDDA
Statistical Bulletin 2009.

Nearly six per 1,000 Maltese in the 15-64 age group are estimated to
use drugs. The UK, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Denmark, France, and
Portugal surpass Malta, with the highest number of problem drug users,
over 10 per 1,000, being in the UK.

The estimated trends in overall problem drug use per 1,000 people were
5.8 people for Malta in 2004. This went up to 6.2 the next year but
dropped to 5.7 in 2006.

Ecstasy use among Maltese students in the 15-16 age group is
increasingly significantly. While the annual prevalence was about one
per cent in 2003, it rose to four per cent in 2007. Meanwhile, the use
of cannabis among 15-16 year-old students studied between 1995 and
2007 is climbing at a quite alarming rate, although the prevalence of
the drug is on the low side.

In Europe, cannabis use has been stabilizing over the past few years,
but some countries, including Malta, are registering an increase. The
lifetime prevalence of cannabis use among 15-16-year old students was
eight in 1995 but shot up to 13 in 2007.

Worthy of note is the fact that in 2008, the wholesale price for
cannabis resin in Malta was some US$3 per gram but its retail price
was about US$13 per gram.

Some 0.8 per cent of the 15-64 western and central European population
(which includes Malta), used ecstasy at least once in 2007. In fact,
some 2.2 million people are estimated to have used the drug in the
same period.

The drug report points out that the world's supply of the two main
problem drugs - opiates (mainly heroin) and cocaine - has been
declining over the last two years. The global area under opium
cultivation has dropped by almost a quarter (23 per cent) in the past
two years, and opium production looks set to fall steeply this year
due to a blight that could wipe out a quarter of Afghanistan's
production. Coca cultivation was down by 28 per cent in the past decade.

Heroin and cocaine markets are stable in the developed world, it
notes. But stabilization of the cocaine and heroin markets masks a
growing problem on the misuse of prescription drugs in many parts of
the world. Subsequently, according to the report, the global number of
people using amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is likely to exceed the
number of opiate and cocaine users combined.

"The ATS market is harder to track because of short trafficking routes
(manufacturing usually takes place close to main consumer markets),
and the fact that many of the raw materials are both legal and readily
available. Furthermore, manufacturers are quick to market new products
(like Ketamine, Mephedrone and Spice) and exploit new markets.

"We will not solve the world drugs problem if addiction simply shifts
from cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances," the report
says, warning of complacency.

Since 1998, the year of the last UN General Assembly Special Session
devoted to the drug problem, global potential opium production has
increased by 78 per cent, from 4,346 metric tonnes (mt) to 7,754mt in
2009. Fortunately, these production increases do not correspond to
consumption increases, as it appears that large quantities of opium
have been stockpiled in recent years. This means, however, that, as
the head of the police anti drug squad Neil Harrison said in an
interview with this newspaper, that even if production were completely
eliminated today, existing stocks could supply users for at least two

In contrast to heroin and cocaine, only very broad production
estimates can be given for cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants
(ATS). Due to the decentralization of production, it is difficult to
track global trends in either of these markets. Between 13,000 and
66,100mt of herbal cannabis were produced in 2008, as were 2,200 to
9,900mt of cannabis resin. Manufacture of the amphetamines-group of
ATS (amphetamine, methamphetamine, methcathinone and related
substances) was in the range of 161 to 588mt in 2008. Manufacture of
drugs marketed as 'ecstasy' ranged from 55 to 133mt.

Opiate seizures continue to increase. This applies to both opium and
heroin seizures. Morphine3 seizures, in contrast, declined in 2008.

Tracking global ATS seizures is more complicated, because there are
several products involved that appeal to different markets, including
amphetamine, methamphetamine and 'ecstasy'. After tripling in the
early years of this decade, ATS seizures have remained stable since
2006. Ecstasy seizures showed a marked decline in 2008 compared to a
year earlier. Global seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine
remained largely stable at very high levels in 2008. Global cannabis
herb seizures increased over the 2006-2008 period (+23 per cent),
especially in South America, reaching levels last reported in 2004.
Global cannabis resin seizures increased markedly over the 2006-2008
period (+62 per cent) and clearly exceeded the previous peak of 2004.
Large increases in cannabis resin seizures in 2008 were reported from
the Near and Middle East region, as well as from Europe and Africa.

Overall drug use in Malta

Some 0.57 per cent of the population aged 15-65 is estimated to use
opiates in Malta. This is no insignificant percentage in comparison
with the rest of western and central Europe. The lowest percentage
use: 0.1 per cent, was registered in the UK, Spain, Poland Lithuania,
and Hungary while Italy and Latvia registered the highest percentage
use: 0.72 and 0.75 per cent respectively.

Some 1.1 per cent of our population is estimated to use cocaine. Yet,
2.2 per cent of the Italian population is estimated to use the drug
and three per cent use it in Spain, England and Wales. The lowest
consumption, 0.1 per cent was registered in Greece. However, in 2008,
Malta registered three cocaine related deaths from a total of eight
drug deaths. This meant that 0.74 per cent per 100,000 inhabitants had
died from the drug. This was the second highest figure of cocaine
related deaths given in the World Drug Report. The highest figure,
0.77 per 100,000 inhabitants was registered in Ireland but this was
for 2005.

In his interview with this newspaper, Mr Harrison pointed out that
seizures of the drug in Malta have nearly trebled since 2005 and the
police are aware of cocaine users at all levels of society - from
low-income earners to those in the middle and high-income brackets. In
1994, when he first worked with the anti-drug squad, cocaine was
considered an elitist drug.

The use of cannabis is more widespread in Malta where 4.5 per cent of
the population is estimated to use it. Consequently, its use in Malta
is not much less than that of Holland, where possession of small
quantities is legal. However, three times as much Italians, 14.6 per
cent of the population, use it, falling just a little bit short of the
highest percentage use - 15.2 per cent registered in the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, the use of amphetamines is quite high in Malta where 0.9
per cent of the population uses such drugs - the same percentage as in
Spain, Latvia and Belgium. Some 1.2 per cent use amphetamines in the
UK, 1.1 per cent uses them in Norway, 1.2 per cent in Denmark and 1.7
per cent in the Czech Republic.

Some 0.9 per cent of the Maltese population take ecstasy pills. The
highest use in Europe was registered in the Czech Republic at 3.6 per
cent, and the lowest, 0.2 per cent, in Greece. 
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