More than 8% of young Bulgarians used cannabis in a year – European annual report

About 8.3 per cent of Bulgarians aged 15 to 34 had used cannabis in the past year, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in an annual report released on June 6 2017.

In this age group, about 2.9 per cent had used MDMA, 1.3 per cent amphetamines and 0.3 per cent cocaine, the report said.

Counted by weight, the top five drugs seized in Bulgaria were cannabis, heroin, amphetamines, meta-amphetamines and cannabis resin.

Data on drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students are reported by the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This study has been conducted in Bulgaria since 1999.

Bulgarian students reported higher than average (35 countries) levels of use for six of the eight key variables studied, including lifetime use of cannabis, lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis and lifetime use of NPS.

Lifetime cannabis use increased substantially between 1999 and 2003, but has remained relatively stable since then.

Bulgarian students reported one of the highest rates of lifetime cannabis use among the ESPAD countries. For results reported for the last 30 days, cigarette use, alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking also exceeded the ESPAD average.

However, the results showed that levels of lifetime use of inhalants and non-prescription use of tranquillisers or sedatives were slightly below the ESPAD average.

Studies among university students conducted in 2006- 14 also indicate relatively stable levels of cannabis consumption among young adults over this period.

Data from specialised treatment centres indicate that heroin remains the primary substance used by a large proportion of the first-time treatment clients, although a reduction in the number of first-time entrants seeking treatment for heroin use since 2009 was noted.

In general, people who require treatment as a result of heroin use are older than other treatment clients, and many of them have had previous treatment.

In Bulgaria, it is estimated that about 0.2 per cent of 15- to 64-year-olds have used cannabis daily or almost daily in the last 30 days, based on data from the 2012 general population survey, the report said.

In Bulgaria, data on drug-related emergencies are available at the level of individual facilities. The Centre for Emergency Medical Aid of Sofia reported approximately 800 emergency cases related to illicit drug use (including abstinence syndrome).

The toxicology clinic in Pirogov Hospital, which is in Sofia, reported 179 emergency patients in 2015, a third of whom required assistance because of cannabis use, followed by amphetamine, heroin and methadone users. The toxicology clinic in Plovdiv reported fewer drug-related emergency cases than the equivalent services in the capital.

The general mortality register reports a decline in drug-induced deaths in Bulgaria since 2008, when a record number of deaths were reported. All but two of the victims in 2015 were male. The mean age at the time of death was 33 years.

The drug-induced mortality rate in Bulgaria among adults (aged 15-64) was 3.6 deaths per million in 2015, which is lower than the most recent European average of 20.3 deaths per million.

Bulgaria, which is situated on the Balkan route, is considered as a transit country for all illicit drugs, with trafficking activity shaped by supply and demand in Western European and Middle Eastern countries.

In addition, the cultivation of cannabis, which is mainly indoors, and some production of synthetic stimulants is reported consistently.

The available information suggests that cannabis grown in Bulgaria may also be smuggled to other EU countries. Methamphetamine seems to be the main stimulant produced, albeit at a small scale and for domestic use.

Traditionally, the Balkan route, which passes through Bulgaria, was used to smuggle heroin. It is increasingly being used to traffic other illicit drugs and precursors.

In 2015, the most frequently seized drug was herbal cannabis, followed by heroin. However, the amounts of substances that are seized fluctuate from year to year and, in 2015, only MDMA tablets were seized in quantities that were higher than those reported in 2014, the EMCDDA report said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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