Europe Toked Up on More Cannabis, But Said No to Ecstasy in 2021 Says New Survey
An online survey conducted last year reveals that Europeans are choosing marijuana over ecstasy pills. Acceptance of cannabis in Europe has come a long way from what it used to be some years ago. Europeans are no longer ashamed to reveal their cannabis consumption.
The new survey suggests that this increase can somehow be traced to the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. During this period, restrictions were in full force, and ecstasy use was expected. However, surveys carried out on the use of both drugs between March and April 2021 tell a new story.
Cannabis consumption is on the rise, while ecstasy use has declined.
The latest European survey
The most recent online surgery carried out by the European Observatory on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) was conducted in 30 countries—21 are affiliated with the European Union, including Portugal. At the same time, the rest are not members of the EU. The results detailing the extent of cannabis and ecstasy use concluded that the consumption of MDMA, also called ecstasy, has declined while the consumption of herbal cannabis, or hemp, is on the rise.
The EMCDDA reported that 33%, or one-third, of the respondents, disclosed that they were using more herbal cannabis, and almost half (44%) admitted that they used less MDMA. The organization says that the survey’s main aim was to get a clear understanding of drug consumption patterns within Europe and neighboring countries. This data will help define future interventions and policies to regulate the use of drugs in the region.
According to the EMCDDA, this data shows self-selected samples of Europeans that indicated using one or more illegal drugs in the past year.
Over 48,500 adults in 21 European Union member states responded to the online survey. Many of them said that their most commonly used drug was cannabis or hemp. 93% of these users said they had used it at least once within the past year. A comparison of the data from individual countries shows very little variation. Following this trend, the online responses to ecstasy or MDMA show that 35% say they used the drug activity within the last year. The survey also collected data on other illicit substances like amphetamines and cocaine. 35% of the respondents use cocaine, while 28% use amphetamines. According to this online survey, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in European countries, followed closely by a tie between cocaine and ecstasy. There are tiny variations in the way these three drugs are ranked in the surveyed European states.
20% of the sample countries reported having consumed LSD in the last 12 months, 13% used Ketamine, and 16% said they had tried new psychoactive substances (NSP) found in the local markets. Only 3% of the sampled populations reported consuming heroin. The Lisbon-based facility clarified that the sample that the reported sample was too small. The Observatory noted that about 26% of these respondents indicated a higher use of heroin within the studied duration. Note that all respondents that answered this survey are at least 18 years of age. Some participants are based in the Western Balkans, including Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro.
The survey was held in three neighboring European countries for the first time last year. Respondents in these countries—Lebanon, Ukraine, and Georgia—answered the survey through EU4MD, an EMCDDA technical assistance project. The results from these countries will be released in a few months.
The survey also requested data on the locations where the respondents consumed these substances. 86 percent of EU respondents and 70 percent of participants in the Western Balkans reported that they used these substances in the confinement of their homes. This is likely due to the harsh penalties that could be faced due to public consumption of these substances. The respondents said that the motive for using herbal cannabis was for relaxation, improving sleep, or recreational reasons. MDMA, or ecstasy, users, on the other hand, used the substance for its euphoric and socializing effects.
This study just samples a small portion of the European Union, but the sampled populations offer helpful information about the drug habits of residents in these states. Alexis Goosdeel, Director of EMCDDA, wrote that the web survey does not tell the whole story of drug use within the region; however, given the appropriate methods used to conduct this survey, as well as the conventional data-collection technique used, it has depicted a realistic and detailed illustration of drug markets and drug use in Europe.
He mentioned that about one hundred organizations contributed to the initiative’s success, including academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the Reitox national focal facilities. He also praised the organizations for their participation in sorting and analyzing the obtained data. He claims that web surveys will provide more information about the continent’s shifting drug problems.
These online surveys can reach target populations in a shorter amount of time while still gathering the same results. Goosdeel stressed that the obtained results portray the availability of many illicit drugs across Europe and the emerging trends of some of these drugs at the peak of the pandemic and currently as things normalize. He expressed his hope that the results would be invaluable to determining drug policies in the region.
This self-reported data give an integrated overview of the prevalence of illicit drugs across Europe. It provides an insight into the active use of these substances by adults aged 18 or more. The data paints a picture of the total population of Europe and the neighboring countries, showing details of intensive cannabis use, a decreasing frequency of ecstasy consumption, and the motivation behind the use of these substances.
Similar studies were carried out in the United States of America last year to shed light on cannabis use across legal and non-legal states. Some studies were also done to illustrate the percentage of Americans who accept cannabis legalization. The global cannabis industry is brewing, and it’s expected that the use of other illicit drugs like ecstasy may drop in favor of cannabis use.
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