Potent synthetic substances, new drug mixtures and changing patterns of use pose a growing threat in Europe, the EU’s drugs agency said the European Drug Report published on Tuesday. These were among the issues raised by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) as it launched its ‘European Drug Report 2024: Trends and Developments’.

Drug availability remains high in Europe, says the report, where the market offers a diverse range of products. People who use drugs are now exposed to a wider range of psychoactive substances, often of high potency or purity, or in new forms, mixtures and combinations. With products sometimes mis-sold, consumers may be unaware of what they are taking and subject to greater health risks, including potentially fatal poisoning.

The report highlights concerns around potent synthetic opioids, sometimes mis-sold or mixed with medicines and other drugs; MDMA adulterated with synthetic cathinones; and cannabis products adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids. By the end of 2023, the EMCDDA was monitoring over 950 new psychoactive substances (NPS), 26 of which were first reported in Europe in that year.

A key message of this year’s report is that ‘polysubstance use’ – the use of two or more psychoactive substances at the same time or in sequence – is common in Europe today. Whether it involves using benzodiazepines with opioids, or cocaine with alcohol, this pattern of drug use can increase health risks and complicate the delivery of interventions (e.g. overdose response). These challenges are further complicated when drug mixtures are consumed unknowingly.

According to the report: “One of the challenges facing drug surveillance in 2024 is to gain a deeper understanding of what drugs are actually being consumed and in what combinations”. The priorities of the new European Union Drugs Agency (EUDA), launching on 2 July, will include enhancing the monitoring of patterns of polysubstance use and the understanding of what constitutes effective prevention, treatment and harm reduction interventions. The agency will also strengthen its analytical capacity, through an EU network of forensic and toxicological laboratories.

Source: EUbusiness


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