The article of Matua et al, published recently in Current Drug Research Reviews, focuses on an issue of major interest to public health sector and social care workers: the increasing number of drug users in Albania during recent years. The data offered are conjointly produced from three major sources of data collection and study, namely, the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Tirana, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Medicine in Tirana, and Methadone Maintenance Treatment Centers.
The conjoint efforts of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tirana and the Faculty of Medicine in the capital of Albania have converged into documenting the concerns that have largely been raised from public opinion and mass media. In fact, the production and abuse of cannabis has been as well scrutinized from the same Institute, and results were published in 2012 in Forensic Science International.
The present study aimed into creating a representative picture of the prevalence and the total number of drug users in Albania from 2012 to 2016, as well as comparing those numbers to previous years with other available data. From the first contact with the results of the study, the reader might be impressed with the large number of cases registered and reported: in fact, there are 7050 cases included in this study.
Alcohol abuse aside (since it was not part of the study), Cannabis Sativa remained the most consumed drug, present in 62.58% of the cases. Other substances with a noticeable prevalence of use were heroin (15.02%) and cocaine (5.1%). 36 drug-related deaths from 2012 to 2016 were registered. During this period of time, only 9 individuals resulted positive for sexually transmitted infections (STI), of which, one positive for Hepatitis C and the remaining 8 positives for HIV. About 25% of drug users in Albania belong to the young subgroup of the population (13-32 years old).
Two major factors have been identified as responsible for the overall increased prevalence of cannabis abuse among Albanian youngsters: 1, access and exposure, with the price of marijuana being substantially lower than that of heroin or cocaine; and 2, toxicity, since the drug is relatively safer and deaths related to toxicity or overdosing are anecdotal if not extremely rare.
Overall, taking into consideration all three databases, the number of drug users has significantly increased. There are more officially reported drug users today compared to 2012. However, different trends are observed during different periods. Youngsters are more eager and tempted to use and experiment more with safer and less harmful drugs like cannabis. Meanwhile, as age increases, there is a tendency to shift towards more potent and dangerous drugs. Preventing and reducing the prevalence of the use of psychoactive drugs is one of the main goals of public health in the region.
The article aims to share valid and reliable epidemiological data for prospective studies that will compare Albanian results with those from the other countries in Asia or from European countries. Generated as an imperative of the present trend of drug abuse, it reflects a professional position, through suggesting targeted interventions in a society that has been affected from this phenomenon only during the last 25 years.
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Reference: Matua L, Vyshka G, Muharremi G, Petrela E, Kocibelli M, Xhemali B., (2018). The Use of Psychoactive Substances and Illegal Drugs in the Albanian Society. Current Drug Research Reviews, 2018. DOI: 10.2174/1874473711666180719141731