Drug experts in the Czech Republic have a reason to celebrate. For the first time in several years, the number of heavy drug addicts has gone down, according to the latest annual report about the state of drug abuse in the Czech Republic. The consumption of alcohol and tobacco among children under the age of 16 has declined as well. I asked the head of the government’s national Anti-Drug Agency, Jindřich Vobořil, to outline the situation:
“Because heavy drug use is attached to all kind of pathological situations, such as criminality, transmittable diseases and so on. So this is very important for us.
“We also look at legal drugs used by under-aged people. That figure has also gone down for the first time, even though we are still the worst country within the EU.”
Why has the situation improved? What do you see as major factors behind the favourable trend?
“It is always a set of several factors. Over the past three years, the current government really made this issue a priority, so the money used for prevention and treatment has increased by 80 percent.
“And then there is the end of economic depression, which has also contributed to the improvement. And then there are new technologies, which have been responsible for changing young people’s lifestyle. A lot of people stay inside and spend a lot of time on-line, which is of course a problem, but in terms of drug addictions it has a direct benefit.”
What do you see as a major problem right now? Is it the number of opiate users, which has increased?
“In terms of methamphetamine, which is the drug number one, that has decreased and I hope the trend is going to continue. With opiate use, we have an increased use of buprenorphine which is the smaller evil out of the two drugs.
“If you look at the number of heroin users, it remains more or less the same, at about 4,000 users. The number has not increased.
“The fact that buprenorphine is available on the black market is not a good sign. On the other hand, the drug has what we call a ‘ceiling effect’, which means people cannot overdose on it.
“But we also face other issues, such as fentanyl, which is a very potent pharmaceutic opioid. We have recorded a slight increase in the number of people overdosing on fentanyl. It is still a small number, just 44 people in 2015, but it was about ten more than in the previous year.”