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Cocaine seizures in Europe hit all-time high: EU drugs report

Cocaine seizures in Europe hit all-time high: EU drugs report

Drugs cocaine

(BRUSSELS) - Seizures of cocaine are at record levels in Europe, with signs of an increase in the drug's availability, according to the European Drug Report released by the EU's drugs agency on Thursday.

According to the 'European Drug Report 2019: Trends and Developments', released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), over 104,000 cocaine seizures were reported in the EU in 2017, compared with 98,000 in 2016.

In its annual overview, the agency also explores challenges associated with heroin and new synthetic opioids, the latest developments in the cannabis market, Europe's growing role in synthetic drug production and the use of digital technologies for health benefits in the drugs field.

"Drugs remain a constantly evolving, multi-faceted threat to our societies, affecting the life of millions of citizens around the world," said Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. He called for a more coordinated approach that tackles both supply and demand, and said EU efforts - such as new rules to ban psychoactive substances and enhanced cooperation with international partners - were bearing fruit. But he added that "we also need to look at the role of digitalisation in the drug market. We have no time to spare. We need to be coordinated at the national, European and international levels."

The EMCDDA report highlights the continuing high availability of most illicit substances. The latest data show that in Europe (EU-28, Turkey and Norway), over 1 million seizures of illicit drugs are reported annually. Around 96 million adults in the EU (15–64 years) have tried an illicit drug in their lifetime and an estimated 1.2 million people receive treatment each year for illicit drug use (EU-28). In 2018, 55 new psychoactive substances (NPS) were detected in the EU for the first time, bringing the total number monitored by the agency to 730.

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel warned against "an evolving market where synthetic drugs and drug production within Europe are growing in importance. This can be seen in problems associated with the use of highly potent synthetic opioids, in new production techniques for MDMA and amphetamines, and in recent developments in the processing of morphine into heroin inside Europe's borders."

Heroin is still the most common illicit opioid on the drug market in Europe and is a major contributor to drug-related health and social costs. The quantity of heroin seized in the EU increased by over a tonne in 2017 to 5.4 tonnes, with an additional 17.4 tonnes seized by Turkey (some of which would have been destined for the EU market).

The report says that the current opioid epidemic in the United States and Canada is largely driven by the use of synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl and its derivatives. While these substances currently represent only a small share of the drug market in Europe, they are a growing concern, with use linked to poisonings and deaths.

As for cannabis, this remains the most widely used illicit drug in Europe, as evident in data on prevalence, seizures and new treatment demands. Some 17.5 million young Europeans (15–34 years) are estimated to have used cannabis in the last year (EU-28 — 2017 estimate).

European Drug Report 2019: Trends and Developments (EMCDDA)

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