Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Southeast European Times: Drug trade could be a rising problem for Romania


By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest

Romania's geographical location places it along transit routes for international drug trafficking. Domestic use, while still relatively low compared to the rest of Europe, also is on the rise.

Due in large part to its geographical location, Romania has the potential to become an international drug trafficking country, experts warn. The Balkan nation is positioned along heroin transit routes, linking Afghanistan and Central Africa to Europe via Turkey. It is also along the transit route for synthetic drugs from Europe to the Middle East.

Last November, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction (EMCDDA) released an annual report on the state of the drug problem in Europe. This report was launched simultaneously with another study, drafted by Romania's National Anti-Drug Agency (ANA).

"We anticipate an increase in drug use and traffic in Romania over time and the results will be seriously influenced by the functioning of the European and global anti-drug system," said ANA President Pavel Abraham, referring to the post-ascension period in Romania.

The good news is that domestic drug use remains comparatively low, at least for the time being. A recent study of cocaine use found the rate in Romania was 0.4%, compared to 3% in other European countries. At the same time, only 0.32% of cocaine users in Romania seek medical help; elsewhere in Europe the figure is 12%.

Altogether, the 2006 national report shows there are approximately 35,000 drug addicts in Romania. Most are between the ages of 20 and 24. A substantial number -- 46% -- are heroin users. Another 19% take drugs with hypnotic and sedative effects.

According to the ANA, there has been a 7% increase in drug use and addiction among convicts, compared to the same number in 2001.

The prevalence of Hepatitis C among drug addicts is 48%, a figure that places Romania at a medium prevalence of Hepatitis C among European countries. However, HIV infection due to drug use is under 1%, according to the EMCDDA report.

Margareta Nielson, the EMCDDA co-ordinator, says the report shows a large decrease in the price of narcotics. At the same time, heroin production has risen, as has the number of people contracting infectious diseases as a consequence of drug use.

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