The EU's drug monitoring agency has warned of historically high levels of cocaine use amongst Europeans. In a report presented in the Parliament it noted that 65 million people had tried cannabis at least once with 10 million trying cocaine. Changes in lifestyles and attitudes with declining prices encourages drug use says the report. Crucially the agency does not draw a distinction between "hard" and "soft " drugs and warns that they can all be dangerous and lead to health and social problems.
As well as the prevalence of drug use - the report also says that Europe is the centre of the world's ecstasy production - the demand being fuelled by recreational drug use among young people in clubs and discos. Another worrying development is that data from Spain and the UK shows that drug usage is becoming more common in people in their 30's and 40's.
In France, Britain and Italy the report says that 60% of club goers had tried cocaine at least once.
Unveiling the report, Wolfgang Götz of the monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction commented that "for too many young Europeans, getting drunk or getting high have become an essential part of a good night out. If we do not break the link in young peoples´ minds between taking drugs and having fun then the health and social costs will be considerable."
The Chair of Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee - Italian People's Party MEP Stefano Zappala - said that the report "enables EP and the other political institutions to create better adapted politics taking into account best practises in fighting drugs and in treatment of drug-addicts."
His colleague on the Committee - Portuguese Socialist Fausto Correia warned: "we have to reinforce prevention, treatment and the reduction of costs for public health, and also bear in mind the fight against production and trafficking."
In late 2004 European Union leaders agreed an eight year drugs strategy; it put international cooperation and consultation with scientific centres, NGO's, drug professionals and local communities at its heart.
In December of that year Parliament adopted a resolution with a series of recommendations for EU governments to take into account when tackling drugs. MEPs called for a strategy "based not an ideological but on scientific assessments" and said that large scale smuggling of drugs in particular needs European cooperation to tackle the problem.
Further information :
2006 report: the drugs problem in Europe
EU's drug monitoring agency
Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee
EU drugs strategy (2005-2012)