Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

A national survey conducted in 1984 among 15 to 40 year olds indicates that 20 to 25 per cent of the respondents "occasionally" abuse cannabis and 7 per cent abuse it "often"; 0.7 per cent abuse opiates and/or cocaine "frequently" and 2 per cent abuse LSD/other non specified drugs "frequently". About 6 per cent of the general population misuse tranquilizers. No significant solvent abuse is reported (WHO 1992).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Male drug addicts make up approximately 80 per cent of the drug abusers in treatment. Most drug abusers are between 25 and 30 years old. Many are unemployed, partly due to poor education (school or vocational training). Cocaine and heroin abuse is more prevalent among older abusers (Austria 1991).

                         Regional  Variations

Drug related deaths are highest for the Vienna area, Vorarlberg and in Oberosterreich (Jahresbericht). Cocaine abuse decreases from West to East in Austria with the exception of Vienna (Austria 1991).


According to collected data and other indicators, the number of heroin abusers declined by about a third while the number of cocaine abusers doubled since 1985. Drug related deaths increased and are attributed to a rise in multiple drug abuse (one third of the drug related deaths reported in 1989 are due to overdose of sedative-hypnotics), deteriorating physical, psychological and social conditions, suicide, AIDS and other drug related diseases. The total number of drug related offences has declined between 1984 and 1990 (5,053 in 1984,  4,829 in 1990). Drug seizures in 1990 rose by one third to 1,990; cannabis seizures tripled and those of cocaine doubled. Heroin seized decreased mainly due to fewer large scale seizures (Austria 1991).

                             Mode of intake

Multiple drug abuse characterizes the Austrian drug subculture. Sedative hypnotics and alcohol abuse combined with or as a substitute of illicit drugs is common (Austria 1991).


Drug related deaths. After a stable period between 1988 and 1990, drug related deaths increased 39 per cent between 1990 (83) and 1991 (116) and almost tripled compared to 1986 (46). About 66 per cent of these deaths are attributed to overdose of drugs or medical preparations (77), followed by AIDS (22.5 per cent), suicide (5 per cent), other drug related diseases (4 per cent) and 4 per cent by some form of accident. In comparison with 1990, the proportion of deaths due to overdose has increased in 1991 (43 per cent in 1990), that due to suicide decreased (8 per cent in 1990) and deaths due to AIDS have decreased (27 per cent in 1990) (Jahresbericht 1991).

            The largest proportion of drug related deaths in 1991 were in the 30 to 34 age group (39), followed by the 25 to 29 age range (31). Only 2 deaths of persons 19 and under and 3 in the over 40 years old age group were reported. Among the deaths from overdose, the largest number were in the 25 to 29 age group (25) whereas the number of deaths due to AIDS was the highest in the 30 to 34 age range (12).

            Seventy nine percent of drug related deaths were of males in 1991 (83 per cent in 1990).

            Fifty three per cent of the drug related deaths were in the Vienna area, 16 per cent in Vorarlberg, 14 per cent in Oberosterreich, 9 per cent in Tirol, 3 per cent in each Karnten and Niederosterreich and 1 per cent each in Salzburg and Steiermark (Jahresbericht 1991).

            AIDS/HIV seroprevalence. Of the total 961 AIDS cases reported in Austria in June 1993, 28 per cent are injecting drug abusers. This proportion is higher than in France (23 per cent) and almost twice as high as in Germany (European Centre 1993).

            An increase of HIV infection among drug abusers has been noted since 1987, although no exact figure is available. HIV infected drug abusers account for 44.5 per cent of all seropositives in 1991 (WHO 1991).



                           National Strategy

A national Coordination Unit ("Koordinationsstelle fur Suchtfragen") was created in 1980 within the Department of Public Health to coordinate the activities of the relevant ministries and regional authorities (Austria 1991).


                           Treaty adherence

Austria is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol.


                           Primary Prevention

Prevention policy in Austria addresses illicit drug abuse as well as licit use of psychotropic substances and alcohol. Audio visual material targets parents and students. Drug prevention is part of health education in schools. A special drug education programme has been implemented in Vorarlberg and is yet to be evaluated.

            Prevention of AIDS among drug abusers is highlighted (Austria 1991).

            Needle exchange schemes are available in some health institutions. Free needles and syringes programmes are also in place. Needles and syringes can be bought at low cost in all pharmacies without medical prescription (WHO 1991)

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Treatment and rehabilitation in Austria aim at drug abstinence. Counselling and treatment are voluntary, confidential and free of charge.

            In 1991 there were 61 out-patient counselling centres, 7 in-patient short-term detoxification centres, 2 medium-term and 5 long-term treatment and rehabilitation centres. In 1989, approximately 5,000 drug addicts were undergoing treatment and rehabilitation, most for opiate dependence of multiple drug addiction (Austria 1991).

            Methadone maintenance. Since 1987 a pharmacological substitution treatment programme (mostly using methadone) has been implemented. Almost 900 patients were treated in 1989. Conditions for entering the programme include being aged over 18, previous unsuccessful drug free treatment and/or HIV seropositivity (Austria 1991).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

A total of 4,829 drug related offences were reported in 1990, an 8 per cent increase from 1989 (4,474). The drug related offence reported in 1989 are distributed as follows: cannabis 60 per cent, heroin 18 per cent, opiates 7 per cent, cocaine 9 per cent, LSD 2.9 per cent, amphetamines 0.7 per cent, methaqualone 0.7 per cent (Austria 1991).


A total of 1,990 seizures were made in Austria in 1990, of which cannabis type drugs (320.5 kg), heroin (72.4 kg), cocaine (41.2 kg), raw opium (7.8 kg) and poppy straw (7.5 kg). Minor quantities of LSD, amphetamines and various medical drugs were also seized (Austria 1991).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Cocaine seized in Austria originated from Latin America and was brought in mainly by air by Latin American couriers but also by Nigerians. Heroin originates mainly from Turkey and Iran via the Balkan route. Heroin of high purity from the Far East has been seized too (Austria 1991).



                       References and Notes

            National data collection is carried out by the Federal Chancellery, Department of Public Health in accordance with the Narcotic Drugs Act. The Department collects data of all drug abusers reported by the district administrative authorities (local health administrations), hospitals (for hospitals, however, the obligation to notify does not apply to drug addicts who seek voluntary treatment in public or private hospitals) and the federal police authorities, courts and public prosecutors on charges and findings related to offences under the Narcotics Drugs Act (Austria 1991).

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1990. Reply to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1990.

Austria 1991.  National Report of Austria to the First Pan European Ministerial Conference on Co-operation on Illicit Drug Abuse Problems. Oslo 9-10 May 1991

Jahresbericht 1991. Jahresbericht 1991 uber die Suchtgiftkriminalitat in Osterreich. Wien 1991.

European Centre 1993. European Centre for the Epidemiological monitoring of AIDS, AIDS Surveillance in Europe, Quarterly Report No. 38, 30 June 1993

WHO 1991. AIDS among drug abusers in Europe, review of recent developments, WHO, 1991.

WHO 1992. European Summary on Drug Abuse. First Report (1985-1990). H. Klingemann, et. al., WHO 1992.