A new report has sounded a warning over the misuse of synthetic opioids in Europe, and says that while these substances currently represent only a small share of the drug market in Europe, they are a growing concern.
The European Drug Report 2019 published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction provides a snapshot of the drug situation in Europe.
The report details how around 50 new synthetic opioids have been reported to the EU Early Warning System on new psychoactive substances and many of these substances have been linked to severe poisonings and deaths. Data from drug treatment monitoring shows 22 per cent of clients entering drug treatment for an opioid-related problem now report a licit or illicit synthetic opioid, rather than heroin, as their main problem drug.
Meanwhile, the report shows cocaine was the illicit drug most commonly reported in drug-related hospital emergency presentations recorded by a network of 26 sentinel hospitals in 18 European countries in 2017 (Euro-DEN Plus), followed by heroin and cannabis. Almost a quarter of presentations involved the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs - most commonly benzodiazepines and opioids. Ten per cent were related to GHB/GBL (gamma-hydroxybutyrate/gamma-butyrolactone) and 4 per cent involved new psychoactive substances.