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EU Drug Use Widespread; Mostly Marijuana, Hashish

The European Union says drug use is widespread across the 15 nation bloc but that most drug consumers prefer smoking cannabis-related substances like marijuana and hashish rather than trying harder drugs. But the latest findings of the EU's Lisbon-based European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction indicate that cocaine use is growing among young adults.

In a report issued Tuesday, the Center says that in some EU countries, between one-fifth and one-fourth of the population has experimented with cannabis-based drugs. Those countries are Britain, Denmark, France, Ireland and the Netherlands. The report adds that, in countries where cannabis use was relatively rare ten years ago, such as in Finland and Greece, it is gaining in popularity.

According to the report, the typical drug consumer in the EU is a young adult male living in an urban area. But in some countries, such as Britain and France, as many as one-third of teen-agers smoke marijuana or hashish.

The report says use of other recreational drugs like cocaine is much less common than use of cannabis-based drugs. But it notes that cocaine consumption is rising, especially among young people who frequent nightclubs, where they often use it in conjunction with other substances, such as alcohol, amphetamines or ecstasy. The report says cocaine use is highest in Britain, Spain and the Netherlands.

The Center says Britain, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal have the highest proportion of heroin addicts, although there has been little or no increase in heroin use across the EU over the past five years.

The EU's drug monitoring center was set up to give EU policymakers the data they need to tackle drug use among teenagers, improve treatment programs and deal with drug-related health problems. It also provides information to police intent on combating drug trafficking.

The report says that drug arrests and drug seizures, especially of heroin, have risen dramatically over the past five years all across the EU. But it says Italy, Spain and Central and Eastern European countries continue to be important transit points for smugglers bringing drugs into the Union.