Belgians turned away from drug use during lockdown despite availability

Belgians turned away from drug use during lockdown despite availability
Credit: Belga

Drug use dropped significantly from 13 March, the National Public Health Institute, Sciensano, said on Thursday.

While all substances have remained available on the market throughout the coronavirus crisis, 1 in 5 respondents in a Sciensano survey stopped using drugs during the period in which the survey was conducted.

The survey included 5,764 people over 18 years of age, residing in Belgium and having used drugs in 2020. Ten drugs were mentioned in the survey: alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy/MDMA, LSD, GHB and heroin. Overall consumption of these substances fell after 13 March.

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The survey showed that 60% of ecstasy users reported using less ecstasy, and nearly half of cocaine users used less cocaine, with 46% of cocaine users confessing to not using any drugs at all since the lockdown. So did 19.4% of ecstasy users and 13.6% of cannabis users. Some 45% of amphetamine users took fewer amphetamines.

“This decrease in consumption is probably primarily due to the limited freedom of movement during this period, the temporary closure of all restaurants and cafés and the cessation of nightlife,” said Jérôme Antoine, a scientist at Sciensano. “People no longer had access to situations that previously gave rise to drug use, and social contacts with friends also largely disappeared.”

“However, almost 10% of cocaine users and 5% of ecstasy and amphetamine users confessed to having used more after 13 March than before,” Antoine added.

Despite a drop in sales, all drugs remained available on the market, according to Sciensano. However, an early-May report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime asserted that drugs dealers were suffering a shortage of product as a result of a general slowdown in international traffic.

Those who did buy drugs during the lockdown went mainly through dealers, according to the survey, while some respondents mentioned buying drugs over the Internet, Sciensano reported.

The Brussels Times

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