Synthetic Drug Use Hits All-Time High in EU

By McCarton Ackerman 11/16/12

Europeans increasingly like their drugs synthetic, raising a new set of concerns.

Dangerous mixtures? Photo via

Although people in the European Union still prefer coke and pot to other drugs (not to mention boozing more than any other continent), synthetic drugs use there has soared to an all-time high. Roughly one new synthetic drug per week has hit the market over the last two years: 49 new synthetic drugs were detected by law enforcement in 2011, and over 50 so far this year. The substances are typically sold on the illegal drug market, but also on the internet as "legal highs." Many contain "obscure" chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that have led to emergency room visits and deaths. "Data from emergency rooms, toxicology reports and drug treatment centers indicate that the associated risks are not always well known by the users," states the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). "Consumers of those products are likely to be both unaware of what they are consuming and ignorant of the health and legal implications." The EMCDDA also reports that heroin and cocaine use have steadily declined—European cocaine use reached its peak in 2008 and 2009. Nearly 1.4 million EU citizens are "problem" users of opiates such as heroin, while four million people have used cocaine within the last year.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.