Drug abuse continues to rise in Switzerland

Swiss youngsters lead the field when it comes to dope smoking Keystone

Consumption of cannabis, amphetamines and cocaine is increasing in Switzerland, according to a United Nations study.

This content was published on March 4, 2005 - 10:33

The annual report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) also highlights the "intense market" for heroin in Switzerland.

According to the INCB, Switzerland is in line with the rest of Europe regarding cannabis, but is bucking the trend in other areas of drug abuse.

"In Western Europe, the country with the highest level of opiate abuse is Luxembourg, followed by Portugal, Britain, Italy and Switzerland," said the INCB.

It said this was likely to grow in the near future because opium production was increasing in Afghanistan.

Regarding cocaine abuse, the Vienna-based agency said Switzerland was moving in the opposite direction to much of the rest of Europe, where the tendency is towards stabilisation.

"Cocaine abuse appears to be increasing in Britain and, to a lesser extent, in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland," said the INCB.

In its annual report the INCB "strongly encourages" Switzerland to sign the UN Convention against Illicit Drug Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Cannabis abuse

But the UN agency, which has been highly critical of Switzerland in the past, praised efforts taken by the Swiss authorities to clamp down on cannabis abuse.

A study – Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children – published late last year revealed that Swiss schoolchildren are the heaviest dope smokers in Europe.

One in three 15 year olds said they had smoked a joint in the past 12 months.

The INCB welcomed action taken by the authorities to crack down on the illegal cultivation of cannabis, singling out Operation Indoor run by the police in the southern canton of Ticino.

This led to the closure of 60 cannabis farms, 70 hemp shops and the seizure of 4.2 tons of cannabis.

The INCB report also noted the fact that the Swiss parliament had rejected a bill in June last year that would have led to the decriminalisation of cannabis.

The tough line on cannabis taken by the Swiss parliament has coincided with a nationwide clampdown on hemp shops, once a regular sight in many Swiss towns and cities.

The UN report highlighted a SFr1 million ($850,000) action plan launched by Switzerland for the period 2004-2007 to reduce cannabis abuse.

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Key facts

According to a 2002 study, 60,000 Swiss have consumed heroin and/or cocaine.
44.5% of young Swiss aged 15-16 have smoked cannabis, says the INCB.
It claims around 28.8 million people in Europe smoked cannabis last year.

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In brief

The INCB says cannabis consumption has increased across Europe over the past decade.

But while trends for cocaine and amphetamine abuse are declining across the continent, they are on the rise in Switzerland.

In its annual report, the UN agency highlights Swiss efforts to reduce cannabis consumption.

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