Drugs consumption in Europe is generally stable or falling, but record opium production in Afghanistan may lead to a surge in the availability of heroin across the continent, the EU's drugs monitoring agency said.
The use of drugs such as ecstasy has declined in some areas of Europe
"Overall, for most forms of consumption, we are not seeing major increases, and, in some areas, trends appear to be downwards," said Wolfgang Goetz, head of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) on Thursday, November 6.
The EMCDDA's 2008 annual report shows a steady or declining use among Europeans of amphetamine and ecstasy, while there are signs that consumption of cannabis - by far the most popular illicit drug in Europe - is falling among young people in some countries.
In Germany, for instance, 11.9 per cent of those aged between 15 and 34 years old reported using cannabis in 2006, compared to 14.6 per cent in 2003.
A similar trend has been observed in England and Wales, where the number of young adults who say they consume cannabis fell from 19.6 per cent in 2000 to 15.6 per cent in the 2006-07 period.
Cocaine and heroin growing in popularity
The survey also confirms the growing popularity of cocaine, which is now consumed by some 3.5 million young Europeans each year.
Cocaine remains popular
The highest number of consumers of this drug among 15 to 34 year olds is found in Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Britain and Spain, which recorded a European peak of 5.2 per cent in 2006.
However, the biggest concern of the Lisbon-based agency remains heroin, which is responsible for up to 8,000 deaths in Europe each year and is consumed by between 1.3 and 1.7 million people across the continent.
While "current evidence does not point to an epidemic growth in heroin problems," the EMCDDA notes a 10 per cent increase in the number of seizures in Europe during the 2003-06 period.
According to the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in the world's biggest supplier - Afghanistan - totaled 7,700 tons this year, only slightly down from the 2007 record production of 8,200 tons.
"We cannot ignore the threat posed by the glut of heroin now available on the world market," Goetz said.