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Germany

Coma-drinking Up, Drug Deaths Down

The number of drug-related deaths in Germany may be down, but the number of people engaging in binge drinking is on the way up, according to the country's special representative for drugs, Marion Caspers-Merk. The number of people who died last year as a result of taking illegal drugs was the lowest since 1989. There were 1477 drug-related deaths in 2003, as opposed to 1513 the previous year. Caspers-Merk said the results are partly due to successful government initiatives such as aid programs for serious drug addicts. Alcohol abuse, however, is on the increase, with more and more young people engaging in "coma-drinking." Between 2000 and 2002, the number of children and teens being brought to hospital with alcohol poisoning rose by 26 percent. Caspers-Merk said the development could partly be blamed on the growing popularity of "alcopops" -- pre-mixed sugary drinks containing rum, whiskey or vodka. The trendy drinks are blamed by the government for getting underage drinkers -- especially girls -- hooked on hard alcohol. The government plans to introduce a new tax on alcopops to stem their popularity.

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