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This Is How Europe Takes Drugs in 2014

The 2014 European Drug Report came out last week and told us exactly what we already knew: that Europeans are very fond of drugs. Here are some handy heat maps for those of you who don't know how to read.

Photo by Patrick D Bortz

The 2014 European Drug Report came out last week and told us exactly what we already knew: that Europeans are very fond of drugs.

For better or worse, the Old Continent has arguably been the world's most prolific drug-consuming landmass for at least a century or so. In the 1930s, while Reefer Madness was convincing Americans that smoking weed would turn their children into rapists, Turkey was supplying Greek proto-hippies with the continent’s crumbliest hash; in the 80s, Zurich turned Platzspitz Park into a legal, open-air drug market; and, in the early 90s, half of Manchester spent their weekends existing almost exclusively on pills and poppers.


The situation is no different today. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report estimates that around a quarter of Europe’s adult population have taken an illegal drug in their lifetime, and states that the consumption of cannabis alone throughout the continent adds up to around 2,000 tons every year.

There’s also Europe’s recent insatiable taste for legal highs to take into account. Over the past few years, drugs that sound like Diamond Head support bands—“Exodus Damnation", “Dragon Pellet", “King Cobra”, etc.—have made their way from the quiet head-shop stalls of Reading Festival to the shouty headlines of the European press. And for good reason—81 new legal alternatives to pills, coke, and weed were discovered in 2013 alone, and each of those untested substances comes with its own unique set of risks.

Worryingly, users in many countries have progressed from snorting, smoking, or ingesting these chemicals to injecting them. That, of course, opens them up to all the regular, blood-borne dangers that intravenous users have been flirting with ever since people started poking needles full of gear into their veins.

To give you a proper rundown of the current European drug climate, we’ve taken a bunch of statistics from the Global Drug Survey 2014 and turned them into the maps you see dotted throughout this post. We also dug through the 2014 European Drug report—as well as a load of other recently released studies—pulled out the most significant points from a few of the countries surveyed, and turned them into easily digestible sentences so you can remember them at a bar this evening.


All graphs by Alex Vissaridis (Click to enlarge)

According to one international survey aimed at drug users, cannabis was actually more popular in Denmark than tobacco, with 66 percent of respondents saying they had smoked it in the last year.

Estonia has a pretty serious problem with fetanyl, a very strong synthetic opioid. Because of this, the country has the largest number of drug overdoses in Europe, and the rate of HIV outbreaks is high.

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A drug sold as legal cocaine—MDPV, a mephedrone-like substance—has caused a number of deaths in Finland.

As VICE reported last year, Greece is suffering a catastrophic problem with the drug called sisa, a type of methamphetamine that can be as cheap as a dollar per hit.

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On average, a gram of weed in Ireland costs $27, making it the most expensive place to get stoned in Europe.

Dutch people fucking love taking stimulants. More than 50 percent of respondents to one survey aimed at drug users in the Netherlands said they had taken MDMA in the past year, making it more popular there than cannabis. The country is also big on producing pingers—2.4 million ecstasy tablets were seized in the Netherlands in 2012, the largest haul of pills ever intercepted in the European Union.

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Norway has the second-highest rate of drug overdoses in Europe, behind Estonia. According to government figures, 76 per million people will die of a drug overdose in the country, due in part to the capital Oslo's heroin-addiction problem.


Romanians are getting into legal highs. In fact, they're now so widespread that more than a third of those entering drug-treatment programs for the first time were doing so because of new psychoactive substances. In comparison, only 21 percent of first-time patients were using heroin.

This is partly due to a shortage of heroin in the country in 2010 and 2011, with users switching to the legal highs that you can just buy online. Injection of these drugs is now on the rise, with 33 percent of specialized drug-treatment participants injecting some form of legal high as their primary drug, and with one needle and syringe program in Bucharest reporting that 51 percent of their users were injecting new psychoactive substances.

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Acting as the gateway to Europe from Morocco, more than two thirds of cannabis resin seized in the EU is in Spain. The country is also fond of synthetic cannabinoids—herbs sprayed with chemicals that emulate the effects of cannabis. Although only 20 kilos were seized throughout the first half of 2013, it's still the largest reported interception of this type of drug in Europe.

Turkey, as it has been for decades, remains a trafficking hotspot, with drugs destined for both the European heroin market and the Middle East being seized. Since 2007, the country has also held the enviable title of being the leading European country for herbal cannabis seizures.


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Since being banned in 2010, mephedrone has made a substantial dent on the black market. There were approximately 1,900 users of the drug entering treatment programs in 2011 and 2012, and more than half of those users were under 18 years old. Some injecting users of the drug have been mixing it with heroin—a cheaper version of a speedball, which is traditionally a mixture of heroin and cocaine.

You may have already worked this out from the fact that trace amounts were recently found in the national water supply, but the UK is Europe's leading consumer of cocaine, with nearly 10 percent of the population stating that they have consumed the drug at least once in their lifetime.

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