2005 Annual Report: The Czech Republic Drug Situation

Summary and new trends

Drug policy expenditures increased by approximately CZK 44 million (€ 1.48 million) in 2005 compared to 2004. There is an annual increase in the amount of financial resourcesprovided by regions.

The situation in the field of drug usein the general population has remained stable; no significant change was recorded in 2005. No general population surveyor national schoolsurveywas carried out in 2005. Approximately 20% of the adult population has tried an illicit drug, according to surveys from 2002 and 2004, and the prevalenceof drug use among secondary school students is even higher (44% among 16-year-old and 56% among 18-year-old secondary school students). Cannabisand ecstasyare the most commonly used illicit drugs, and there is a very limited extent of experience with drugs with more serious health and social risks (opiates, pervitin, cocaine) in the general population.

The estimated number of problem users of pervitinand opiatesincreased slightly in 2005. As far as pervitin is concerned, the increase was most probably caused by the further dissemination of pervitin in night-life and dance settings, including small towns. The increase in the number of opiates users involves those who use Subutexobtained from the black market as their primary drug by injection. There are still significant regional differences in the prevalenceof problem drug usersand the types of the substances used (Prague and the Ústí region report a significant proportion of users of opiates, including Subutex, while pervitin users prevail in other regions and the use of Subutex is reported less frequently or seldom). The average age of problem drug users who are in contact with helping facilities increased again; the proportion of problem users aged under 19 has a decreasing tendency. Therefore, it is very likely that no new generation of young problem drug users is growing up.

Approximately a third of the users who are in contact with helping facilities are infectedwith hepatitisC, and approximately 10% are infected with hepatitis B. There was a decline in the number of new reported cases of drug users infected with hepatitis A and B. HIV/AIDSprevalencein the population of Czech injecting drug users continues to remain under 1%. The occurrence of infections among drug users has been stable in recent years; infections are not spreading in an epidemic manner. However, it is alarming that the number of tested drug users is continually decreasing, which is largely caused by a shortage of quick screening tests on the Czech market which can be used in low-thresholdfacilities, and that the number of problem drug usersfrom Eastern Europe, where the occurrence of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS is markedly higher, is increasing. The number of syringes distributed in exchange programmescontinues to increase – 3.3 million of them were exchangedin 2005.

The number of drug-related deaths(overdoses) has remained stable. Drug-related deaths most commonly involve opiates, pervitin, and inhalants– each of these accounts for approximately 20 deaths per year. Sporadic overdoses on ecstasyand cocainehave been reported in the last 2–3 years.

A wide spectrum of services with good accesibility provides for harm (risk) reduction and the treatmentand resocialisation of drug users in the Czech Republic. The network of low-thresholdprogrammes has remained stable (approximately 60% of problem drug usersare in contact with them). Outreach work with drug users has been developing in recent years. The network of outpatientand inpatienthealth facilities has remained stable. Two therapeutic communities ceased to operate in 2005; on the other hand, aftercareprogrammes including sheltered housing and sheltered work programmes have been developing. The number of specialised substitutioncentres is increasing, and new methadoneprogrammes were opened in the Southern Bohemia and in 2006 in Karlovy Vary regions. A pilot methadone treatment programme started in two prisonsin 2006. The quantity of Subutexbeing consumed is increasing. The number of people who use Subutex (either prescribed by a physician or from the black market) is unknown. One of the reasons is that the Substitution Treatment Register does not yet allow for reporting from outpatient facilities which prescribe Subutex only. It is estimated that 20–30% of opiatesusers are in substitution treatment programmes (it is difficult to make a more exact estimate because of unknown number of Subutex users).

The number of drug offences, as well as the number of those prosecutedfor or accused of these crimes in 2005, was approximately the same as in 2004. Even the number and proportion (8%) of cases of the possessionof drugs in a quantity greater than smallas a percentage of overall drug offences has remained approximately the same. The number of those sentencedfor drug offences has decreased for the first time since the beginning of the 1990s. Pervitinis the drug which is most commonly associated with drug-related crimeand its proportion is increasing, while the proportion of cannabisdrugs is decreasing. The proportion of custodial sentences is increasing among those sentenced. The proportion of suspended sentences, first offenders, and juveniles among those sentenced for cannabis-related offences is markedly higher than among those sentenced for offences which involved other drugs.

The number of drug seizuresby lawenforcementbodies in 2005 was approximately the same as in 2004. The only
exception involved a decline in the volume of hashishand ecstasyseized and an increase in the volume of cocaineseizures. The CzechRepublic is a country where pervitin(methamphetamine) is produced and from which it is also illegally exported abroad; an increase in pervitin production from freely available medicamentswhich contain pseudoephedrine occurred in 2005. A significant proportion of the cannabisconsumed is also covered by domestic production. The CzechRepublic continues to be a target and transit country for other drugs.

Drug prices remain at a stable level; street drug purityhas been relatively stable, despite year-on-year differences in the purity of drugs which were analysed by the lawenforcementauthorities – the differences can also be caused by seizuresof large quantities of pure drugs (namely heroin) before they were adulterated for sale to the end user.