Marijuana: the other “pandemic” in Europe

At a time the main focus of all the sectors of the society is on the COVID pandemic, there is another insidious problem developing covertly: the drug. If the pandemic has undoubtedly an impact on the health, the economy, and the society at large, it has also affected the availability and through the confinement of the use of the different drugs. And this is a real concern for the EMCDDA (1) but also for the other international institutions such as UNODC (2) and WHO (3).

Aware of these problems and to ensure the youth, parents, and public will not be deprived of vital information on the harmful effects of drug use, the Foundation for a Drug Free Europe (4) and its teams of volunteers of the hundred Say No To Drugs associations and groups existing in some twenty European countries,  continued their actions of prevention education about drugs.

Indeed, wearing their turquoise tee-shirts and using the requested outdoors protections (masks, gloves, etc.) for distributions, the volunteers were found either outdoors in streets or parks, or behind a booth, handing-out their booklets The Truth About Drugs (5), or proposing a display of booklets to shopkeepers. Meanwhile, other volunteers were organizing educative series of lectures online on: what are drugs, their actions, etc. followed by discussion. They were rather successful.

Where do we stand at in Europe?

At the European level, The EMCDDA in a series of rapid studies, has also reported on the impact of COVID-19 on drug use and associated problems, help-seeking, service provision and the operation of the drug market.

In the last European Drug Report 2020 statistics EMCDDA reported an increasing amount of seizures being: 40% Herbal cannabis, 29% Cannabis resin (668 tonnes), 2% Cannabis plant, 10% Cocaine and crack, 6% Amphetamines, 5% Heroin, 3% MDMA, and 6% Other substances.

For Cannabis, from surveys of the general European population, it is estimated that around 1 % of adults are daily or almost daily cannabis users. The majority of these (60 %) are under 35 and around three quarters are male. Cannabis is always the world’s most popular illegal drug with the highest level of availability. The Chinese called it “the drug that takes away the mind”.

The number and quantity of cocaine seizures are now the highest ever reported, with over 181 tonnes of the drug seized in 2018. Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands are key countries for the interception of large quantities. Cocaine is now playing a more important role in the European drug problem. The cocaine market also appears an important driver for drug-related violence.  

Regarding heroin and other opioids, 1,3 millions of people are high-risk opioid users and opioids are found in 82% of the fatal overdoses. After cannabis and cocaine, heroin is the third most common substance involved in drug-related acute toxicity presentations monitored by Euro-DEN Plus in 2018.

Is there a solution?

The first point should be the application by the governments (6) of the article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Then, fighting the drug scourge can be achieved by education of the youth and by prevention, spreading the message on the truth about drugs from the streets to the working place via the classrooms and everywhere. Indeed, empowering the youth with facts on what drugs are and what they do, is giving them the choice to decide to live a drug free life and reach their goals in a safe and sane society.


1-EMCDDA: European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction. Find more on European Report 2020 – Key Issues.

2-UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, located in Vienna (Austria).

“Know more, care more. Addressing the world drug problem requires responses that are based on facts, solidarity and compassion.”  Ms. Ghada Waly, UNODC Executive Director

3-WHO: World Health Organisation; its main objective is “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

4-FDFE: Established in 2004, a non-profit NGO, with an operating office located in Brussels. Visit: Part of the European Commission Transparency Register.

5-The website, partnering with FDFE is providing the 14 The Truth About Drugs prevention booklets in 17 languages, a DVD of testimonies and an Educator Guide.

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