The THC content of cannabis resin in Europe is higher now than it has ever been and psychedelic use and availability is on the rise, according to a recent report.
Data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s (EMCDDA) European Drug Report 2021 showed that cannabis resin tested from seizures within Europe now contains on average between 20-28% THC, which is nearly double the amount found in cannabis flowers from the same area. The report also focuses a spotlight on the increase in cannabis consumption and the growing of cannabis in the home by the end user. The report also, rather worryingly, found a higher instance of cannabis products being adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids.
The “LSD, DMT, Mushrooms, Ketamine and GHB” section of the report also contains some interesting findings, including the revelation that the people of Finland are taking on average double the amount of LSD and mushrooms than their fellow European counterparts, and an increase in the use of GHB in “niche settings such as ‘chem-sex’ parties”. There was also a huge 48 tonnes of GHB seized over 18 countries in Europe.
Other highlights from the report include:
- Cannabis use remains stable at high levels.
- 2019 saw EU Member States report 326,000 combined cannabis resin seizures totalling 465 tonnes, and 313,000 seizures of flower totalling 148 tonnes. Turkey separately seized an additional 28 tonnes of resin and 63 tonnes of flower.
- Prevalence of cannabis use for 15-34 year olds on average is reported to be 21.8% (based on a survey of 26 countries held between 2015-2020), ranging from 14.4% in Hungary and 21.8% in France.
- In the 15-24 age group 19.2% (9.1 million) reported use in the last year, and 10.3% (4.9 million) in the past month.
- In the specific 15-16 school student age group looked at in the 2019 ESPAD survey an average of 17.3% had used cannabis. This is down from a 2011 peak of 20.4%.
- Daily or almost daily users (using cannabis for 20 days a month or more) within the EU account for 1.8% of 15-64 year olds, 61% of whom are under 35.
- 2019 saw 110,000 people enter into specialist drug treatment facilities in Europe who gave cannabis as their main concern, 62,000 of these were first-time entrants into drug treatment.
- Cannabis was the most common reported substance by the Euro-DEN PLus network in 2019, being present in 26% of acute toxicity presentations, usually with other substances in the network’s 23 hospitals spread across 17 countries.
LSD, DMT and mushrooms
These substances, (including the next section Ketamine and GHB) are poorly monitored by the relevant authorities across Europe which limits the EMCDDA’s understanding of their use and their impact on public health.
- Signs point to higher use and an increase of the availability of these substances.
- In 2019 there were approximately 2400 seizures of LSD in Europe, amounting to 115,000 units.
- 19 European countries reported 950 seizures of hallucinogenic mushrooms, 55 kilograms in total.
- There were approximately 300 seizures of DMT in 16 countries, amounting to 89 kilograms which is approximately 75,00 units.
- Use in young adults (15-34 year olds) of LSD and mushrooms is reported at 1% or less, with the exception of Finland at 2%, Estonia 1.6% and the Netherlands at 1.1%.
Ketamine and GHB
Seizures of LSD, DMT, hallucinogenic mushrooms, ketamine and GHB (including its precursor GBL) are not consistently monitored in Europe, but there is some information. This lack of data highlights the need for improved monitoring of these substances.
- Officials have raised concerns about the risks associated with chronic harm due to repeated use of ketamine.
- There were up to 600 kilograms seized by at least 16 EU countries in 2019.
- The prevalence of use of ketamine and GHB in Europe (in young adults 15-34) was considered to be low, at 0.6% in Denmark in 2017 and 0.8% in Romania in 2019.
- The Netherlands has reported that both ketamine and GHB se is on the increase in the nightlife scene.
- Extremely large quantities of GHB were seized across 18 countries, 48 tonnes and just under 500 litres in total, (dates not specified).
- GHB was the fifth most common present drug reported by Euro-DEN Plus hospitals in 2019, being present in 10.6% of acute drug toxicity presentations and 27% of critical care admission.
- Ketamine was present in 1.7% of the acute toxicity presentations reported by Euro-DEN Plus.
This is the first year the report has been prepared without the United Kingdom, following the country’s departure from the EU in 2021, and the first to take into account the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director, said: “Drug production and trafficking appears to have adapted rapidly to pandemic-related restrictions, and we have seen little evidence of any major disruptions in supply.
“Social distancing measures may have affected retail drug dealing, but this appears to have led to a greater adoption of new technologies to facilitate drug distribution, possibly accelerating the trend we have seen in recent years, where the market is becoming increasingly digitally enabled.”