Czechs rank first among Europe's consumers of cannabis

A new annual report released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the EMCDDA, includes some shocking statistics. In the Czech Republic, 22 percent of people between 15 and 34 have tried marihuana at least once. Compared to the other 24 states in the European Union, the Czech Republic ranks first and is on par with the United States.

Deborah Olszewski from the EMCDDA explains how the study among teenagers was conducted:

"It's a school survey that takes place every four years. These surveys are conducted in exam conditions. It's a questionnaire that the students complete in the classrooms. Generally, they are completely anonymous. The students are not required to put down their name and when they have completed the questionnaire they put it into an envelope and seal the envelope."

The report also says that the use of the meta-amphetamine pervitine is almost exclusive to the Czech Republic. But experts on drug use in the Czech Republic are not surprised by the EMCDDA's findings. Dita Asiedu spoke to Jiri Richter from the Czech anti-drugs organisation Sananim about the report:

"We can't say that we don't have a problem with the popular use of marihuana among the young generation but we have to think about what this means and we have to concentrate more on the use of hard drugs. From one point of view, a positive aspect of this high use of marihuana is that it is much better that the drug they use for the first time is marihuana rather than heroin. It is unfair to say that we are the first when it comes to the use of pervitine because we are more or less the only country in Europe where pervitine is used."

Why is that? Is it because it is made here?

"It used to be. There used to be a huge factory near Prague that produced ephedrine. It is probably also rooted in our knowledge in chemistry. There are many young people who can easily produce pervitine from medication. So, it's most probably about tradition."

How many drug addicts actually seek treatment and how effective are the drug prevention and anti-addiction programmes here?

How is all of this affecting the spread of infectious diseases?

"We have quite serious problems with hepatitis because of intravenous drug use; however, we are still not facing serious problems with HIV. It seems like a miracle. We start with harm reduction very early so this is probably the reason why HIV is not spread among drug users here."