The coronavirus pandemic has made it possible for social scientists to think and observe reality differently, perhaps a little more slowly.
And it is that Europe has been confined for several months and the nightlife has come to a screeching halt. If for years and years the bars and nightclubs were full of young people all the time, he had to go home and lock himself in.
Corn… what happened to drug use? How did drug traffickers transport drugs if borders were closed? Faced with these doubts, the European Drugs Report 2021 enlightens us.
Dynamics of drug use in the era of COVID-19
According to this report, it was possible to appreciate the great adaptability of the organizations involved in drug trafficking due to the fact that the availability of various medicines in Europe has not been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Basically, drug dealers quickly adapted to the restrictions and changed the way they distributed drugs. Social networks have been used as a means of communication and maritime transport to dodge the closure of airspace and home services.
The result was that the drug continued to be consumed despite restrictive social distancing and containment measures. Outraged, as soon as the restrictions were lifted, it returned to pre-pandemic consumption levels.
The problem of drug adulteration
We already know that even near global lockdown could not reduce drug use and trafficking. Now I would like to introduce myself to the topic that arouses my interest in writing this article. I will talk about some recreational drugs and the quality in terms of purity.
According to the European Drug Report 2021 there is a marked increase in cannabis adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids.
Quoting this report verbatim: “Any hypothetical situation in which people unknowingly consume synthetic cannabinoids is of concern given the toxicity of some of these substances, as illustrated by the epidemic of more than 20 deaths linked to the synthetic cannabinoid 4F-MDMB. -BICA produced in 2020 ”(European Drug Report 2021).
So we find that cannabis is adulterated with extremely dangerous substances to the point that it can lead to the death of users. Do consumers, mainly adolescents and young people, know what substances they are consuming? The answer is a categorical no.
And that’s where we come across a very, very serious public health problem. Basically, any youngster can develop a serious mental disorder or even die on a statutory holiday due to the consumption of an adulterant. This uncontrolled adulteration is seen in most illegal drugs, as noted in the same MDMA report. As an extract from said report, an increase in the MDMA content of the various tablets analyzed is observed.
In addition, samples have been detected which have very high levels of MDMA, capable of producing severe psychotic images and very dangerous behavioral expressions.
Possible effects of these substances
The undesirable effects of drugs will depend on the substance, the amount, and the physical and psychological characteristics of the user. However, among the more dangerous side effects there is certainly the ability that some drugs have lead to the onset of chronic psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
A few weeks ago, in the province of Cáceres, Spain, a batch of adulterated cocaine with a hitherto unknown asset killed two people and intoxicated several dozen. According to the newspaper La Vanguardia, “the people concerned thought that their bodies were invaded by insects or were using cooking oil when in fact they were putting dishwasher detergent in the pan.”
I wouldn’t want to give the impression of an excess of alarmism; however, I consider the situation to be very serious. The levels of adulteration of drugs, because of their illegality and the lack of control that this implies, are very high. Cocaine samples barely reach 30% purity, that is, the remaining 70% are adulterants and excipients, many of which are capable of causing death.
Proliferation of new drugs
In addition, there is a wide variety of new, poorly studied and potentially deadly drugs. More than 400 new substances were discovered on the European continent in 2019. Powerful cannabinoids and synthetic opioids have also emerged, which pose a real threat to the mental and physical health of consumers (according to the European Drug Report 2021).
These substances are consumed by thousands and thousands of young people, and yet there is no interest on the part of health authorities in accounting for this reality. On the contrary, incorrect names are always used to name them. Can cocaine be called a white powder containing less than 30% cocaine hydrochloride and other adulterating substances? In my opinion no. It’s like calling a dough a dough made up of 30% potatoes and 70% flour, preservatives and colorings, or calling a juice a liquid that contains only 7% fruit.
As an example of this reality, according to the above-mentioned Drug Report, the average degree of purity of the different amphetamine samples sold at retail in the different countries that make up the European Union ranged from 13% to 67% in 2019. i 50% of nations reported an average purity between 20% and 35%.
As a psychologist, I can say that it is only to the extent that consumers know the reality of what they consume that they will be able to take the necessary precautions to avoid intoxications or the psychotic or depressive images induced by them. adulterated substances. This is why it is essential that those responsible for mental and physical health perform the important task of informing and preventing our young people about the psychoactive substances they consume.
There is no other way, and I think it is crucial to start naming things by their names. What our teens think is cocaine is not. What they believe is methamphetamine or amphetamine, so be it; this even happens with cannabis, as the European report on synthetic cannabioid drugs shows.
I would also like to mention another factor that further complicates this situation, namely that Europe has gone from a continent that imports drugs to a continent that produces and exports drugs. Indeed, new synthetic psychoactive substances can be produced in small home laboratories. Thus, drug use in Europe no longer depends on production from Asia or America, as had historically happened, but Europe is now a continent that contributes to global drug consumption.
This new reality radically increases the access to drugs of our population, which is another risk factor for the evolution and the perpetuation of consumption and the harmful effects that result from it on physical and mental health.
To look forward
From my point of view, psychologists and all health professionals and social workers must alert the authorities to this situation and carry out information and prevention campaigns to stem this worrying reality. We cannot continue to call medication by an incorrect name. Our young people need to know the truth about what they are consuming.
It must be a collective and institutional effort and it must start as soon as possible, or we will continue to receive news of deaths and serious mental disorders among our young people due to the ingestion of potent, adulterated and dangerous substances.
He It should be mentioned that there are institutions and non-governmental organizations that do this information and prevention work, but there is so little dissemination that the information does not reach the general population, which means that the effort is in vain.
Consumers, many of whom are teenagers, should not be blamed either, because society itself and the environment in which these boys and girls operate offers constantly contradictory messages.
Alcohol advertising gives the impression that alcoholic beverages are good. There is constant talk of the supposed benefits of cannabis, and the various forms of recreation or celebration almost always go with alcohol; baptisms, weddings, football matches, concerts, birthdays, among others. It is the culture itself that in some way leads to the normalization of risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.
There is still a lot to do, a lot to analyze and I think it’s never too late to take the lead and focus on a reality like addiction from a more honest and successful perspective, starting to highlight the different chemical compositions of drugs and their effects on the body and, continue to educate potential users about the risks they are exposed to without knowing what has been discussed above.