London, 11 June, 2017 - The UK has the highest rates globally of people seeking emergency medical treatment after using synthetic cannabinoids, with over one in 10 users seeking emergency medical treatment in the last year, compared to 1 in 30 globally. The global figure rises to 1 in 8 of those using synthetic cannabinoid products more than 50 times. These findings are highlighted in the Global Drug Survey (GDS) 2017 (1).
"It is worrying that many of the consumers of these substances who end up requesting medical help are in fact taking several drugs and mixing these with alcohol. This can increase the associated risks and cause for example, disorientation, panic attacks, and injuries," explains Joaquín Descals, medical director of Triora addiction clinics in Spain.
Also known as spice, synthetic cannabis is one of the newest drugs on the market and affects the brain in a much more potent way than marijuana.
Just ahead of synthetic cannabis, is methamphetamine or meth. The UN’s World Drug Report 2017 reveals that meth is the second most harmful and dangerous drug after opioids, and the most dangerous amphetamine (2). According to the GDS, one in ten global users of methamphetamine required treatment (4.8% of medical assistance sought), with a much higher percentage of women (8.2%) seeking treatment compared to men (3.7%).
“For years, methamphetamine use declined and became a drug consumed in cultural niches, but now it’s back in fashion among younger users, sometimes in adolescence or even earlier. Now meth is being consumed not only at the weekends as was traditionally the case but also during the week. This is a worrying development, because the earlier someone starts to use drugs the higher the likelihood that they go on to develop an addiction. While meth use is increasing, cannabis and cocaine use is still higher.” Joaquín Descals
Seeking medical assistance for cocaine continues to rise globally as cocaine manufacture and consumption increases. The GDS reveals that increased purity of drugs is responsible for a major increase in hospital accident and emergency admissions for cocaine in the UK. Since 2015, the study found there had been a 50% increase in cocaine users being admitted to A&E.
38% of UK cocaine users and 31.7% of regular cannabis users would like to use less. However, only 8% of cocaine users compared to 15.7% of cannabis users want help to cut down. Globally, the number of people seeking emergency treatment after regular cannabis use halved on the previous year from 1.2% in 2015 to 0.6% in 2016.
(1) The Global Drug Survey 2017 is the largest global drug survey involving more than 115,000 people from 50 countries, including the UK, Spain and the Netherlands.
(2) World Drug Report 2017 Executive Summary (pdf)
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