D., a bus driver, was conducting a group of journalists to the mountainous village, Shengjergj, only 40 kilometers far from the capital city of Tirana. D. Before becoming a bus driver, he was in prison: a convicted drug dealer.

“Now, I’ve decided to leave that stuff behind”, he told the group, – “but a lot of my friends still do it.” His finger pointed to the mountains ahead and said that that most of the villagers have been planting Cannabis plants. Most of the drugs he trafficked went abroad. That may be changing as Albania’s taste for Cannabis grows.

Police seize more Cannabis products (herbal Cannabis and Cannabis plants) than any other drug in the country. From 2012 onwards, police have found and destroyed more and more Cannabis. In 2015, the Albanian State Police reported a record number of drug seizure.

It seems like the more they seize, the more it spreads and the cheaper it gets. A 2014 survey showed that four out of every 50 young people surveyed had used Cannabis and two have used Cocaine in the last month. That means that one in 25 Albanian youth use Cocaine at least every month, a sign of addiction.

According to the data reported in the World Drug Report 2015, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Croatians and Albanian have the highest number of people who have tried Marijuana in the Western Balkan. But more Albanian have tried Cocaine than any other Balkans citizens. Way more Albanians  than any other Balkans citizens have tried drugs.

Two in 40 Albanians have tried Marijuana at least once in their lives and one in 40 Albanians have tried Cocaine.

For every adult who tried Cannabis once in their lifetime in Macedonia, there are five in Albania and seven in Croatia. And, for every person who have tried Cocaine in Serbia, there are eight in Croatia and 25 in Albania. But casual users are not the public health concern, but rather those who become addicted and use regularly, a growing group of people who seek treatment for drug addiction each year in Albania.

Youth remains vulnerable of using drugs

According to the survey, conducted by Institute of Public Health in Albania, in 50 young adults, almost half have once in their lifetime tried drugs – Cannabis or Cocaine, much higher rates than their parents’ generation. Marijuana and Cocaine can be addictive even if you tried them once.

Related to the last year, among 50 young adults, seven have used Cannabis and five have used Cocaine. Almost as many had used drugs within the last month.

Cocaine is considered a more dangerous drug. Cocaine not only affects the pleasure centers of the brain, it also stimulates other systems in the body that control survival, mood, appetite, arousal, and sleep. People using Cocaine experience dramatic energy increased and elevated self-worth, and usually, think they are the life of the party.

But Marijuana can also reduce users’ quality of life and potential. Research has shown that Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off, depending on the person’s history with the drug. Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Considerable evidence suggests that students who smoke Marijuana have poorer educational outcomes than their nonsmoking peers.

It is possible that other factors independently predispose people to both Marijuana use and various negative life outcomes such as school dropout.

Studies have also suggested specific links between Marijuana use and adverse consequences in the workplace, such as increased risk for injury or accidents.

Severe medical complications can occur with Cocaine use. Some of the most frequent are cardiovascular effects, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks; neurological effects, including headaches, seizures, strokes, and coma; and gastrointestinal complications, including abdominal pain and nausea.

Albanian taste for drugs is growing each year and the police or on the trail

Adults in Albania who have tried Cannabis or Cocaine have tripled from 2006 to 2014, even though the police is seizing more. Albania is considered a Cannabis-producing country by

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). For every kilogram of Marijuana caught by the police in 2010 there were 13 kilograms more seized in 2014.

The quantity of Cocaine seized by the police was grown too. For every kilogram of Cocaine stopped by the police in 2010, there were more than 3 kilograms seized in 2014.

Albania is a cheap drug destination

The economic law of demand and supply works same in the black markets. Supply and demand fixes the price and when there is a bigger supply on the market, prices go down.

According to the latest report of UNODC about demand and supply, in Albania, the price for one gram of Marijuana in the black market is $5, half the average price for Balkan countries. In Montenegro and Serbia, the price of 1 gram of Marijuana is five time more expensive than in Albania.

Cocaine is also cheaper to get in Albania than most places. It costs about $80 in Albania to buy 1 gram of Cocaine compared to a $100, which is the average price for the region. The retail price in Albania is around half the price as in Kosovo, where one gram of Cocaine salts costs almost 163.75 dollars.

The requirement for treatment is growing

L. V., a businessman from Durrës, was hospitalized with an emergency in a private hospital in Tirana due to problems with blood pressure. For many years, he had used Cocaine to manage the stress from his business. Now he is facing health problem and drug addiction, even though he says he bought the highest quality drugs he could find.

The number of problematic drug users (addicted users and ones having serious problems from the drug use) in the country varies from 4,800 to 8,600 individuals.

In Albania, over 1,000 people sought treatment for drug abuse in 2015. One in eight were seeking help for the first time. Close to three quarters of the clients are from Tirana. National Drug Strategy. The proportion of those seeking help because of Cannabis use has gradually increased as well from 2006 onwards, with about a quarter of treatment entries linked to Cannabis in 2015.

For more than 15 years, specialized services for drug abuse have been provided only by the toxicology clinic service, at the “Mother Teresa” University Hospital Center, while there are still no ambulatory public structures, day care services or community services with beds for people trying to get clean.

There are two other private non-for-profit centers, namely the “Emanuel Center”, which offers residential treatment, and “Action Plus”, which provides substitution treatment with methadone.

The more they seize, the more it spreads

Data from EMCDDA shows Albanian police are intercepting more drugs than any other police force in the Balkans, leading in both Cocaine and Cannabis. While regional Cocaine seizures declined in the region, Cannabis seizures ballooned in Albania. Moreover, Albania has the highest level of Marijuana (Cannabis type drug) seized by the police over the years. In 2014, for every kilogram of Marijuana seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were 310 kilograms seized in Albania.

The quantity of Cocaine seized by the Albanian police tripled since 2010 while overall seizures in the region declined over the same period of time.

 

Original post in Albanian here.

Original post in English here.