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Designer drugs on the rise

Kathleen Schuster
May 29, 2013

Tobacco, alcohol and cannabis consumption has fallen among younger Germans, according to the latest report from Germany's Drug Commission. Meanwhile, the commission warns that designer drugs are taking off.

ARCHIV - Proben der synthetische Droge Crystal Meth liegen in Dresden im Landeskriminalamt Sachsen (Archivfoto vom 03.08.2006, Illustration zum Thema synthetische Drogen). Das Büro der Vereinten Nationen für die Drogen und Verbrechensbekämpfung (UNODC) hat am Mittwoch (24.06.2009) in Wien und Washington den Weltdrogenbericht 2009 veröffentlicht. Danach nimmt die Produktion und der Konsum von synthetischen Drogen - insbesondere in Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländern - zu. Foto: Matthias Hiekel (zu dpa-Meldung vom 24.06.2009) ACHTUNG SPERRFRIST 24. Juni, 15.00 Uhr +++(c) dpa - Report+++
Image: picture alliance/dpa

Tobacco, alcohol and cannabis consumption has fallen among younger Germans, according to the latest report from Germany's Drug Commission. Meanwhile, it warns that designer drug use is taking off.

The rate of drinking and smoking fell among German teens (ages 12-17) over the past decade, according to the Federal Drug Commission's drug and addiction report, released on Wednesday. This decline was correlated directly to Germany's drug prevention campaign.

"We have chosen the right path with our drug policies," it said in a press release, praising the country's preventative measures and rehabilitation options available to addicts seeking help.

"We must maintain and continue to develop [our current system] so that this trend may continue."

Between 2001 and 2011, the rate of alcohol consumption fell to from nearly 18% to 14%. Tobacco and cannabis rates were halved among the same age group. By 2011, less than 12% of German teens surveyed said they had smoked tobacco and less than 5% said they had consumed cannabis.

Drinking, smoking high among adults

The report said the rates among older age groups remained high and must be addressed. Figures from 2010 showed that over 20% of German adults consume large volumes of alcohol on a regular basis, with German men between the ages of 18 and 29 reporting a rate of 44,6%.

Meanwhile, tobacco consumption hovered around 30 percent among German adults as of 2009, showing negligible changes among consumption rates for men and women over a period of two decades.

Rise in 'designer drugs' worries officials

The prevalence of "designer drugs" has risen since 2005, the Drug Commissions report said. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defines these substances as "[any] new narcotic or psychotropic substance in pure or altered form," which does not fall under previous United Nations narcotics conventions, but "can pose a danger to the public health comparable to those substances."

Within the European Union, the EMCDDA identified 164 new designer drugs between 2005 and 2011. It registered a record 73 new substances in 2012.

Wednesday's report singled as cathinones as causing particular concern - which together with cannabinoids make up about two-thirds of the designer drugs identified since 2005 - as consumers can order them online.

Vendors often bypass authorities by labelling the naturally derived cathinones as "legal highs," "bath salts," "plant fertilizer," "air freshener" or "mixed herbs." Many are widely distributed via online stores.

The German drug commission did not provide figures on designer drug rates in Germany, but it said that there have already been fatalities linked to their consumption.