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Slovakia records drop in number of heroin users

The use of heroin in Slovakia has been on the decline in recent years, states an analysis carried out by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs (NMCD), the TASR newswire reported.

The use of heroin in Slovakia has been on the decline in recent years, states an analysis carried out by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs (NMCD), the TASR newswire reported.

"In 1999, there were almost 1,800 persons who sought medical treatment for heroin addiction. However, that number dropped to only something over 700 in 2009," Imrich Steliar from NMCD told TASR on June 21, adding that in the past, heroin users made up 80 percent of all drug-addicted patients, but this figure has fallen to around 40 percent.

"After the [Velvet] Revolution, it [heroin] was something new. Now, people are aware of what it is," said Steliar, adding that other reasons could be that the drug is less available in Bratislava and that there are more police crackdowns. He stated that Slovakia also has the lowest number of HIV-infected people among intravenous drug-users in Europe, with only 0.15 percent of 3,324 people testing HIV positive.

"First of all, we managed to catch it in 1995-2000, when the heroin epidemic was at its peak. Some 90 percent of users were injecting the drug, and that's when we managed to prevent them from spreading HIV," said Ľubomír Okruhlica, the director of the Centre for Treating Drug Addictions, adding that methadone treatment was available free of charge, with syringes and needles also made available to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the analysis, the drug situation in Slovakia is fairly positive. Steliar thinks that this is due to traditional Slovak conservatism as well as policies implemented in this area. "There is a relatively high use of cannabis among young people, but it seems that even this trend has stabilised. It's no longer growing," said Steliar.

The European drug scene, including the one in Slovakia, has changed significantly in the past three to four years, the SITA newswire wrote on June 21. Many synthetic designer drugs have started to appear along with classic drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

"Among these are, for example, phentanyl and also mephedrone, which are as if re-invented for the drug scene. They have psychoactive effects; can induce a state of euphoria, hallucination, and eventually addiction. What is worse, one can easily get an overdose. And then there are some drugs that are currently manufactured in labs, bur not for pharmaceutical companies. However, they are not prohibited, as they are new substances. They will be sold on the internet and in crazy-shops for addicts who tend to be looking for a new experience," Okruhlica stated, as quoted by SITA.

Source: TASR, SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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