EU report reveals that majority of drug-related deaths caused by ‘polysubstance’ use

According to the European Drug Report 2024, the use of synthetic opioids continues to be a major concern for drug agencies in Europe. The report highlights a growing trend of polydrug or polysubstance use among drug users, which poses new health risks. This practice involves the simultaneous or sequential use of two or more psychoactive substances, licit or illicit.

One concerning aspect of polydrug use is the mis-selling or mixing of potent synthetic opioids with other drugs and medications. Additionally, cannabis products are increasingly being adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids, leading to uncertainty among users about the substances they are consuming.

The report emphasizes that polydrug use significantly increases the risk of drug overdose, with cannabis being the most commonly reported drug in cases of polydrug toxicity. Despite the steady rise in synthetic opioids, heroin remains the most commonly used illicit opioid in Europe, followed by cocaine.

While synthetic opioids play a smaller role in Europe compared to North America, their use is on the rise, with nitazenes being a notable emerging threat. However, data on synthetic opioids, especially related to fatalities and poisoning outbreaks, is often lacking in routine post-mortem toxicology tests, leading to potential underestimation of associated deaths.

The report also points out the absence of essential data on the impact of cannabis legalization, particularly in Germany where baseline data is crucial for evaluating the effects of the new law. The increase in THC concentration in cannabis resin over the past decade raises concerns about the need for comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of cannabis use trends in Europe.

Overall, the report underscores the importance of collecting accurate and up-to-date data on drug use patterns and their impacts to inform drug policy and public health measures effectively. It calls for a more comprehensive approach to assessing the complexities of drug consumption in order to address the evolving challenges posed by substance abuse.

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