A new research released on Thursday (21 August) by Eurobarometer has revealed, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, that a narrow majority of Europe’s youth would ban cannabis. The study that focused mainly on opinions on regulating drugs and dealing with drug problems in society highlighted the division among the young people in Europe: 45 percent of them thought that cannabis should be regulated, while 53 percent felt it should be banned. Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of those 13,000 15-24 year olds across the bloc interviewed also believed that hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy should be illegal. While a majority of the respondents called for tougher action against drug dealers and traffickers, there was a disagreement on whether drug users should be punished, including high jail-terms, or receive more medical treatment and rehabilitation. Possession and distribution of cannabis and other drugs is illegal across the EU but national authorities seem to generally tolerate possession and personal use of small amounts. To that end, the study has also revealed that youngsters in the Czech Republic, France and Ireland seem to be Europe’s most likely marijuana smokers, with more than 40 percent of them admitting that they had used cannabis.
Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, other recent studies have showed that significant numbers of European university students, who are under heavy pressure to excel, are using cognitive enhancers, so-called smart drugs, to keep up with academic demands. Commenting on this finding, Boris Quednow, an expert from the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich, has pointed out that “As no longitudinal data has been produced yet, we do not know if there really is an overall increase [in smart drug use]. However, it is my impression from discussions with students over the last years that consumption has likely increased.” Moreover, a lack of long-term research makes it difficult to assess if the use of such stimulants is on the rise. While student drug use for recreational purposes is nothing new, substance use for competitive – and educational – purposes is another matter. A Swiss study published in November 2013, which analysed data from a survey of 6,275 university between December 2012 and January 2013, found that one in seven reported using some form of neuro- or cognitive enhancer in the months leading up to their exams.