Addiction in Greece

While Greece’s addiction issues may not be at the same scale as larger European countries or the US, addiction in Greece still causes serious issues, especially in large cities like Athens.

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Ancient Greek Drug Use

Drug use and addiction in Greece stretches back into the days of ancient history. Research into the drug habits of past Grecians revealed that the most common drugs of ancient times were opium and hemp (marijuana). Numerous examples of Mediterranean artwork display poppies being held and given between people as gifts or ceremonial props. The flowers of the poppy plant provide opium, which the Grecians used as sleep aides, recreation, ceremonial drugs, and suicide aides. Even back then they realized the deadly potential for opium.

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Many different ancient scholars remark on the effect of marijuana. Referred to occasionally as “the laughing weed,” marijuana may be the oldest drug cultivated by humanity. The plant can be used to make rope, clothes, and that was its primary use during much of human history, so the mind-altering side effect was a bonus. Interestingly, Greece still struggles with similar vices.

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Popular Drugs and Addiction in Greece

As of 2019 the two primary drugs in Greece are heroin and marijuana, a pattern held on from ancient times. The early 2000s saw a growth in the problem of heroin use up until 2008, where the amount of problematic use in the country peaked. The fall has been slow, heroin still making up for 55% of the adults seeking help with their drug issues. Marijuana comes in second at 27% for adults seeking help in special programs.

Dealers in Greece are lowering their prices to keep people hooked while also lowering drug quality. Overdoses linked to poorly cut drug supplies have risen as a symptom of maintaining a dependent customer base. Poorer drug dependent Grecians may also run into issues with shisha, a cheap crystal meth-like drug. In the mid 2000s the drug cost only a euro or 2 for a hit, which led to an explosion in popularity. This led to an increase in drug use in the homeless population, homeless pregnancies, and overdoses in the homeless communities throughout Greece.

Addressing Addiction in Greece

The rise in drug use through the early 2000s received harsh treatments from the Greek government. While also dealing with a severe recession, the government started cutting social programs aimed at reducing addiction in the homeless population. These austerity measures, while intended to help the economy, end up costing more than they’re saving. Estimates value investment in anti-addiction programs to return 6 times the value of the cost. For every euro put into programs addressing issues like heroin and shisha use, the country avoids spending 6 more on police and healthcare costs.

While governmental austerity measures slowed down many programs aimed at curbing addiction in Greece, there are some programs still working. Intravenous drug use has led to a spike in HIV and Hepatitis C throughout Greek cities and needle exchange programs have popped up to combat that effect. Sharing needles when using intravenous drugs can quickly spread blood-borne illnesses like HIV and Hep. C, so public programs that can help avoid those outcomes help keep people safe.

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The Police

As more social programs lose funding and go dormant, the police get handed the addiction issue to deal with. The approach in cities like Athens focuses on relocating the homeless people struggling most with substance use. Police swept the city centers and rounded up homeless people and started pushing them out toward the edges of the city or even outside the city.

When interviewed and asked about their experiences, the people displaced by these police actions tell harrowing stories about the tactics used to deal with them. Some alleged that the police would throw people in vans, drive them completely out of the city and dump them on the side of the highway like trash. Others who were forced into the outer rings of the city report being closer to drug outlets that fuel their habits.

Avoiding Drug Use Disorders

Don’t try and ignore a problem that you or a loved one may be facing. There are resources available that can help you if you reach out. It may feel easier now to try and face it on your own, but your chances of success are slim. Find your way out of addiction with the help of a trained treatment provider.

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