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This Is How Europe Takes Drugs in 2014

Our handy heatmaps will make you proud/appalled to be British.

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, our continent has arguably been the world's most prolific drug-consuming landmass for a very long time. From Dionysus to De Quincey, Coleridge to Freud and Moon to Tiesto – we've always loved to get on it. 

And we still do; 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. Unsurprisingly, cocaine and cannabis are the most popular – the report states that, throughout the continent, around 2,000 tons of weed alone are ingested each year.

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 the pub tonight.

Editor's note – FAO Scots: You may have noticed that Scotland and the UK are identified separately on our maps. The GDS don’t give much away re: their methodology, but we’re assuming this distinction has been made because Scotland's socioeconomic climate is distinct enough from the rest of the UK to be ranked independently. So, for the purpose of this post, “UK” means Northern Ireland, Wales and England, and “Scotland” means Scotland.

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Why are there so many crusties in Barcelona? Spain acts as the gateway to Europe from Morocco. Over two-thirds of all the cannabis resin seized in the EU is seized in Spain, and the country is also fond of synthetic cannabinoids – herbs sprayed with chemicals that emulate the effects of cannabis. Although only 20kg was seized throughout the first half of 2013, it's still the largest reported interception of this type of drug in Europe.

Elsewhere, weed is big in Ireland – despite the fact that, at a whopping €20 per gram, it's the most expensive place to get stoned in Europe – and Denmark. According to the Global Drug Survey, cannabis was actually more popular among drug users in Denmark than tobacco, with 66 percent of respondents saying they had smoked it in the last year. 

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You may have already deduced this, given that trace amounts were recently found in the national water supply, but the UK is Europe's leading consumer of cocaine. Over 30 percent of drug users and nearly 10 percent of the population as a whole proudly state that they have consumed the drug at least once in their lifetime. Spain ranks highly again, in stark contrast to their friends over the border in Portugal, who are much happier with a bit of puff and a sleep.

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Once again, the UK leads the pack, eyed curiously by the European powers across the water who must wonder why so many of us choose to spend our nights trying to bring on locked-in syndrome as they casually sip demi pressions and chew sausage on their plazas. Maybe we should blame it on the weather, maybe we should blame it on dubstep, maybe we should blame it on an as-yet unreported fad for colostomy bags. Either way, you've gotta love the NHS for putting up with us.


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Dutch people fucking love taking stimulants. Over 50 percent of respondents to one survey aimed at drug users in the Netherlands said they'd taken MDMA in the past year – which, unbelievably, makes it more popular there than cannabis. The country is also big on producing pingers; 2.4 million Es were seized in the Netherlands in 2012, the largest haul of pills intercepted in the EU that year.


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The people of Ireland and the UK have proved particularly drug-hungry so far, so perhaps it's no surprise that the people who live in these places are also taking the most painkillers. Elsewhere in Europe, Estonia has a pretty serious problem with fentanyl, a very strong synthetic opioid, which could explain why the country has the largest number of overdoses in Europe. Norway is second in that grim list – according to government figures, 76 out of every 1 million people will die of an OD in the country, due in part to Oslo's massive smack problem.

Turkey, as it has been for decades, remains a heroin trafficking hotspot, with drugs destined for both the European and Middle Eastern markets being seized.

For this data, it wasn't made clear whether the drugs bought online were legal highs bought from legal websites or illicit drugs bought on deep web marketplaces like the Silk Road. (Click to enlarge)

Since being banned in 2010, mephedrone has made a substantial dent in the UK's black market. Approximately 1,900 users of the drug entered treatment programmes in 2011/12, and more than half of those users were under 18 years old. Some users who inject the drug have been mixing it with heroin – sort of like a cheaper version of a speedball, which is traditionally a mixture of heroin and cocaine. Simultaneously, the internet is by far the easiest place to score the new wave of synthetic drugs that sound like Diamond Head support bands – “Exodus Damnation”, “Dragon Pellet”, “King Cobra” and their ilk.

Legal highs are fast becoming the border-hopping international language that Esperanto always wished it could be, so it's no surprise that a number of people have died in Finland after taking a drug marketed as legal cocaine known as MDPV. Meanwhile in Romania, people are so into legal highs that over a third of people entering drug treatment programmes for the first time last year did so because of new psychoactive substances. One needle and syringe programme in Bucharest reported that 51 percent of their users were injecting new psychoactive substances.

Which doesn't make the streets any safer – as reported by VICE last year, Greece is suffering a catastrophic problem with the street drug "sisa", a type of methamphetamine that can be as cheap as €1 a hit.

Basically, wherever you go in Europe, there will be someone taking some kind of drug – it's the one thing we seem to agree on and the one thing that the UK seems to do best.

@josephfcox / @vizzee

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