Illegal drug use among Germans dropped last year, according to an annual report issued by the country's anti-drug commissioner. But some say alcohol abuse is rising, particularly among youths.
The number of Germans smoking pot has dropped significantly over the past three years
Just 2.7 percent of Germans admitted to taking illegal drugs at least once a month last year, down from 3.9 percent four years ago, Sabine Bätzing, Germany's commissioner for drug issues, said on Tuesday, Nov. 27, while presenting her annual report.
"Drug use overall is declining," she said, adding that the number of people who died from drug abuse dropped 2.3 percent to 1,296 cases last year.
She added that abuse of amphetamines, LSD, ecstasy and cocaine had also dropped in Germany.
The decline represents a shift for Germany, as the percentage of people who said they used drugs at least once a year fell to 9.6 percent after steadily increasing from 4.3 percent in 1990.
EU drug use stabilizing
The number of 14 to 17-year-olds who smoked cannabis at least once also dropped to 13 percent after reaching 22 percent in 2004. Some 3.3 percent of youths and 2.2 percent of adults regularly smoke, Bätzing said.
Cocaine use increased across the EU, though not in Germany, experts said
A larger study presented by the European Union on Tuesday showed that drug use across the bloc had remained fairly steady in the last year.
"Contrary to the past few years, we no longer observed an increase in most substances," said Wolfgang Götz, director of the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Cocaine was the exception to the general reduction in drug use across the EU. About 4.5 million people used the drug in 2006, about 1 million more than the previous year, according to the European report.
There was, however, no indication that cocaine use in Germany had increased, according to Tim Pfeiffer-Gerschel, head of Germany's drug monitoring office.
Teens drinking worrisome
While illegal drug use is dropping in Germany, Theo Baumgärtner of the Hamburg Office for Addiction Prevention said alcohol had become the new drug of choice for teenagers.
Alcohol has become more popular among German teenagers
"In the 80s it was cocaine, in the early 90s ecstasy, then there was wave of cannabis and for some time excessive alcohol abuse has been the way to impress peers," he said.
Germany's Federal Center for Health Education said drinking among minors has dropped when seen over the long-term, but added that binge drinking had increased over the past 30 years.
The center said 51 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds consumed five or more alcoholic beverages in one day at least once a month, up from 40 percent in 2005.
The death of a 16-year-old boy in Berlin, who drank 40 shots of tequila, led some German politicians to call for raising the legal drinking age. In Germany, beer and wine can be sold to children over 16 while hard liquor is prohibited for anyone under 18.
Consumer Affairs Minister Horst Seehofer, however, came out against a ban on alcohol for minors, saying it was more important to teach them to drink in moderation.