Greece and drug use: What do the statistics and the harsh economic conditions reveal?

According to the data of the E.M.C.D.D.A, Greece seems to rank among the countries with the lowest rate of drug use in Europe. The most recent data on drug use among the general population in Greece comes from the household survey conducted by the University Mental Health Institute (UMHRI) in 2004. It is important to note that drug use increased overall between 1984 and 2004, reaching very high levels in 1998 and then started decreasing gradually. There is also valuable information stemming from the 2010 National Greek Report produced by Reitox Network, according to which Greece is still one of the countries with the lowest illicit drug rates in the school and youth population.

However, despite the data we obtain from the E.M.C.D.D.A annual report, there is an interesting observation regarding the drug users in Greece: around 300 deaths reported annually occur because of overdoses and 40% of the prisoners in Greece are drug dependent users. The prisons in Greece are full to bursting by the number of drug users, where their problems just get worse, excluding drug users from the body of society and leading to a dramatic increase in drug users numbers.

Although the rates of drug use are generally estimated to be quite low, it is a fact that over the last two years drug use in Greece visibly increased, as a consequence of the dramatic financial crisis that Greece is faced with. There is a wide coverage on this issue by the British media, stating that the crisis hurt the drug users in Greece, and especially the IDU (Injection Drug Users), who cannot access clean needles, do not receive the appropriate treatment and find it hard to get the heroin substitutes and the antiretroviral medication they need.

Reuters reports massive increases in drug use, significant raises in HIV rates related to drugs and prostitution, and resort to drug use as a healing of the desperation and the deadlock caused by the crisis. Surveys have shown that the rate of drug users tested positive to HIV in October this year reached the number of 174, with this figure expected to increase to around 200 by the end of the year. EleniKokalou, a doctor in the infectious diseases department of Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, which is the bigger in the capital, reports that since January 2011 there has been a more than 1000% rise of HIV among intravenous drug users.

You can read the full article here.

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