Malta Drug Report: 513 drug-related emergencies, five deaths in 2021

Cocaine and synthetic cannabis were the main drugs leading individuals to seek medical assistance due to intoxication • 1,990 individuals were undergoing rehabilitation treatment

The Drug Report for 2021 paints a picture of the drug situation on the islands
The Drug Report for 2021 paints a picture of the drug situation on the islands

There were 513 drug-related emergencies, with five leading to death, Malta's Drug Report for 2021 shows.

Cocaine and synthetic cannabis (SCRA) were the main drugs for which individuals sought medical assistance because of intoxication.

The Annual National Report on the Drug Situation in Malta for the year 2021 was published on Friday by Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon.

The report shows that 273 emergency cases were cocaine-related while SCRA cases doubled in a year from 49 in 2020 to 100 in 2021. 

The number of drug law offences for the year 2021 amounted to 256, with 142 for possession and 114 for trafficking. Cannabis was the substance most often seized by police in 2021, accounting for 144 of the 256 cases.

The law decriminalising aspects of cannabis recreational use only came into force in December 2021 although trafficking remains a criminal act.

Drug seizures and arraignments  

Overall drug seizures in 2021 remained nearly the same, possibly the result of restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The report registered a massive increase in cannabis resin seized from 0.36kg in 2020 to 272kg in 2021.

The report also found that 762kg of cocaine were seized, up from the 525kg seized in 2020. This also means more cocaine was seized in 2022 than in 2019, when 747kg were seized.

Police seized 187kg of cannabis grass in 2021, an increase from the 151kg caught in 2020.

A drop in the amount seized was also reported for heroin, from nearly 2kg in 2020 to a low 0.64kg seized in 2021.

Drug treatment

The report shows that 1,990 people were receiving drug rehabilitation treatment with 50% of cases being linked to heroin addiction.

Of those seeking rehabilitation, 80% were individuals previously treated for their addiction.

Minister Michael Falzon explained that while the number of people in treatment has increased, trends show that it is not consumption but awareness that has led to this increase.

"This is a positive sign that people are more aware of both the side effects of drugs and the help that is available," he said.

Since the drugs tribunal was set up in 2015, the number of individuals appearing before the Commissioner of Justice amounted increased from 135 in 2015 to 815 in 2019. The COVID-19 interlude between 2020 and 2021 saw the number of cases decrease to 287 and 351 respectively.