According to a recent report, in Augsburg, Germany, and the surrounding area, the number of dead persons by drug overdose had increased to record levels. This number was not this high since 1998.
In 2016, 42 persons were reported as dead due to narcotics overdose in Augsburg. This is the highest level since 1998. In 2015, 31 people died as a result of drug consumption, while in 2012 and 2013 this number was 15. Police reported that the number of overdose deaths increased since herbal mixtures became popular. These drugs are synthetic substances, which has similar effects than cannabis but cause more danger to health. Law enforcement authorities reported that they found synthetic substances in the blood of most of the deceased. In the past, police had little control over the trade of “legal highs”. The synthetic drugs did not appear in the list of criminal substances, and as soon as the trade of a variant of the drugs became a criminal offense, manufacturers changed their compositions. Since November, a new law has been in force, which no longer forbids individual chemical compounds, but whole substance groups. According to senior criminal director Marco Böck, law enforcement authorities expect the new regulation to improve their work.
Another reason for the increase of overdose deaths could be the lack of drug substitute programs in the region. According to Gerline Mair, Head of the Drug Aid in Swabia, there are not enough physicians in the Augsburg area who would offer substitution treatment. Many doctors in the region, who offered treatment for drug addicts in the past, are already retired. Many experts see this as a great problem, especially in the case of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). It is quite dangerous for drug consumers to use NPS since they do not actually know the actual compounds of the substances, and the dosage they have to take for safe use.
“Consumer behavior has also changed due to the ordering possibilities on the Internet,” Mair said. “Drugs could be delivered over the net into the house. The new law had shown no impact since November, especially as illegal drugs could be ordered via the Darknet – a screened area of the Internet. Herbal mixtures or bath salts would be consumed in all age groups, classic drugs such as heroin lost importance. Dependent on the new substances reported having a high addictive pressure, a strong need to consume these drugs.”
According to the report, the average age of the deceased was 38.3 years in 2016. Two of the victims were 25-years-old. Presidential spokesman Manfred Gottschalk claimed that drug addicts take many drugs, stimulants, sedatives, alcohol.
“The body cannot cope with it anymore,” Gottschalk said.
The majority of the drug overdose deaths occurred in the Augsburg area. 37 of the 42 incidents happened within the vicinity of the city. 25 victims were from the city of Augsburg itself, 10 from the Augsburg district, and two from the district of Aichach-Friedberg. Police reported that 33 of the 37 victims were men.
Drug aid leader Mair criticized that there are not enough preventive programs. According to her, there is a need for more “road workers”, and there is also a need for more funds in the field of prevention. Drug aid, which also goes to schools in order to provide information on the topic, had to cancel 201 classes due to financial reasons. Years ago, in Augsburg, there was a discussion about setting up fixed houses. In these places, addicts can take drugs under medical supervision. In six German states such premises are permitted, however, Bavaria does not allow such places in the state. After the state government reaffirmed its negative attitude towards fixed houses, the debate was closed on the topic.
“Would such bodies improve the situation? This would have to be checked, should it be legally possible,” Mair said. “It would be sensible to introduce such facilities in larger cities, for example, in Nuremberg or in Munich.”