Momtchil Vassilev, Director of the National Focal Point on Drugs and Drug Addictions, in an interview for Focus News Agency.
Focus: Mr Vassilev, what is the percentage of youths that have used drugs at least once in their lives?
Momtchil Vassilev: When we talk about 15-16-year-old children, because there is such an international project in which Bulgaria participates, around 25-27% of Bulgarian children have used illegal drug substances at least once. When we talk about elder youths – the percentage is around 35%.
Focus: How many of them are addicted?
Momtchil Vassilev: This is a very misleading question. We will have to wait at least 10-15 years to see how many of them are addicted. Generally, the ratio between drug addicts and people, who have used drugs, is around 1 to 12-13. Our researches reveal that more than 90% of people, who are addicted to drugs – these are mainly heroin addicts in Bulgaria – have started off by using cannabis. This is our conclusion.
Focus: Which are the most preferred drugs?
Momtchil Vassilev: The most widespread and most commonly used drug is marijuana. This trend has been going on for years and is still valid. When we talk about other drug substances, currently the use of amphetamines has surpassed the use of heroin, but only as a frequency of use and not as far as drug addictions go. Heroin is still the substance that leads the chart in drug addicts. Amphetamines come second, as currently the number of heroin addicts is around 5 times higher than the one of amphetamine addicts. This data is from last year. The use of amphetamines is growing considerably and rapidly. I personally expect the number of amphetamine addicts to reach the number of heroin addicts very soon.
Focus: What are the other popular drugs on the market?
Momtchil Vassilev: From a quantity point of view, the classical drugs, which have been known for year, are still predominant. These are heroin, cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, and cocaine. Some of the new drugs are also starting to make their presence felt on the market, but the situation with them is slightly more specific, as they are changing. If the market share of a given substance, for example methedrone, which recently was included in the list of illegal drugs, was around 2% a couple of years ago – at the moment it has almost disappeared from the market. These types of drugs are changing every year. It is difficult to name one substance, which can start making its presence on the market felt. Generally, however, the market share of new drugs is growing. We have reported on that in a number of our researches.
Focus: Are most drugs in Bulgaria local production, or are they imported?
Momtchil Vassilev: I cannot answer with absolute certainty, but most of them are imported. If we start looking in details into the different substances – all of the heroin is imported. It comes from the East, from Turkey. Bulgaria does not yet have its own cocaine production – it mostly comes by the sea from South America. Bulgaria produces amphetamines, but I doubt that the quantities produced in Bulgaria are sufficient to satisfy the market. So amphetamines are also mostly imported. I am not very well prepared to answer about cannabis, because we have witnessed large quantities of cannabis produced in Bulgaria, over the years. I am not quite sure whether the imported or locally produced marijuana is predominant on the Bulgarian market.
Focus: What is the number of drug addicts in Bulgaria?
Momtchil Vassilev: The number of drug addicts in Bulgaria is not very high. These so-called drug addicts are only the people, who have been diagnosed officially. They have been diagnosed with having a drug addiction. There are only several thousand people of such kind. When we talk about drug addicts, who have not necessarily been diagnosed by doctors as being drug addicts – the number is around 32,000, as we use specific research techniques for reaching this number. Out of these 32,000 drug addicts – around 25-26,000 are heroin addicts, and around 5-6,000 are amphetamine addicts. The number of drug addicts, who use opiates or cocaine, is very low.