Online dealing, boom of synthetic drugs raise concern in Europe

Alexis Goosdeel (L) and Dimitris Avramopoulos present the European Drug Report 2019, Brussels, 6 June.

The European drug report 2019, presented today, pointed to a growing use of synthetic drugs, the digitalisation in the drug market and record cocaine seizures. The rise in trafficking on social media, darknet markets and cocaine "call centres", where dealers deliver quickly to users who order online, are creating a "potential 'Uberisation'" of the drugs trade, the study said.

"The challenges we face in the drugs area continue to grow," said Alexis Goosdeel, head of the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, pointed out the EU and its partners "need to look at the role of digitalisation in the drug market".

The EU member states seized 140 tonnes of cocaine in 2017, the highest level ever recorded, with an average street price of €55 to €82 per gram in the EU. Cannabis accounted for nearly three-quarters of illicit drugs seizures in the EU in 2017. Herbal cannabis (marijuana) consumed in Europe is mainly cultivated in Europe, but cannabis resin (hashish) tends to be imported from Morocco, and increasingly from conflict-torn Libya. Almost three-quarters (72%) of cannabis resin seized in the EU in 2017 was in Spain whose proximity to north Africa makes it a hub for sending drugs to Europe.

Turkey is a significant transit country for drugs trafficking between Europe and the Middle East, despite its strict drugs laws. It seized more MDMA tablets (8.6m) and more amphetamine (6.6 tonnes) than all the EU member states combined in 2017.There were also more heroin seizures (129,000) in Turkey than all EU countries combined. Since 2014, Turkey has participated in the EMCDDA's work and is a full member of the management board though without the right to vote.

Synthetic drugs, which mimic the effects of natural drugs such as heroin, have become more common, the report said. Eleven new synthetic opioids were detected in Europe in 2018.

 

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