Germany: A Strict Approach

By Lintner, Eduard | The World and I, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Germany: A Strict Approach


Lintner, Eduard, The World and I


Germany will continue its life-without-drugs stance and resist all demands for illicit drugs to be legalized. The International Narcotics Control Board shares the view that the European states must more firmly oppose legalization trends and must promote cooperation in the area of illicit-drug control, specifically precursor control.

Our government has always been, within the European Union, a guarantor for a consistent drug policy and, more importantly, for a policy that is consistent with public health policy objectives.

The greatest cause for concern in Germany is the growing willingness of adolescents and young adults to pop what they falsely believe are "happiness pills." The trend drug of the nineties, Ecstasy, is taken because it appears to provide "more fun and pleasure," thanks to the physical and emotional high it produces. For the past two years, it was consumed mostly by middle class, socially integrated young persons from 16 to 25 years of age. The "techno scene" setting plays an important role, although being a techno fan does not automatically imply consumption of synthetic drugs.

Although Ecstasy is harmful and involves a high risk of dependence, while at the same time the pleasant effects markedly weaken and the negative physical impact worsens, regular users (those who take more than one pill a week) seem relatively unwilling to quit. This is despite survey results suggesting that the majority of users know that the drug is illicit.

Studies show that in most cases cannabis and alcohol consumption precedes Ecstasy use. Young people tend to try cannabis and alcohol for the first time between the ages of 13 and 15, and Ecstasy between 16 and 18 years of age. According to recent studies, those who use Ecstasy usually take other drugs as well. Staples of the widely prevalent polydrug use are cannabis, LSD, and cocaine, with heroin being rather rare. These practices exponentially increase the health risks.

Periodically debates on drug liberalization, which in one case culminated in the western state of Schleswig-Holstein demanding that hashish be dispensed via pharmacies, are rekindled.

Although these aspirations have not been pursued any further since then, the aftereffect has been a persistent and continuously growing carelessness in dealing with drugs, especially the so-called soft drugs. This attitude is attended by a dangerous misjudgment of the risk inherent in using narcotics of any type.

A look at the annual statistics of the nonresidential addict support institutions in Germany reveals that cannabis abuse is on the rise, accounting for 3.2 percent of all diagnoses recorded in 1996, a growth of 24 percent over the previous year. This ranks cannabis third after alcohol and opioid peptide abuse.

In 1997 the overall number of hard-drug users who came to the police's attention for the first time was up by almost 20 percent from 1996 figures: from 17,197 to 20,594. The highest rate of increase was among amphetamine users, at 37 percent, followed by cocaine users, which rose 31 percent.

The number of recorded first-time heroin users grew by approximately 18 percent, while the number of LSD users increased by about 14 percent over the previous year. The total first-time Ecstasy users rose some 5 percent: from 3,609 to 3,799. For the first half of 1998, trends are going in the same direction.

Owing to modifications in the police's recording practice, recent figures for first-time hard-drug users cannot be compared with those of the year before.

However, it can be reasonably assumed that the increased use of individual substances is in fact due to stepped-up demand and not merely because of a change in recording criteria. This is especially true for synthetic drugs, where the striking uptrend in consumption persists. That is also borne out by the sheer quantities seized in Germany, which has obviously shown a high demand market for such substances.

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