The European Drug Report (EDR) 2020 was released on 22 September 2020. The EDR is a yearly publication produced and presented by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). It aims at providing a picture of the drug and drug addiction situation across Europe as well as identifying current trends. The 2020 edition reflects statistical information made available in 2018. Overall, 1,300,000 drug seizures were reported in 2018 across Europe. It is worth noting that most of the seizures related to small quantities that were confiscated from users, however, high quantity multi-kilogram seizures account for most of the volume in terms of quantity of drugs seized.
Cocaine: Larger volumes intercepted
A total of 181 tonnes of cocaine was seized with Belgium (53 tonnes), Spain (48 tonnes) and the Netherlands (40 tonnes) remaining the main intercepting countries. The report acknowledges the increase in production of cocaine in the producing countries Colombia, Peru and Bolivia as well as the discovery of small and large shipments of cocaine across Europe. The seizure of coca leaves and coca paste and the discovery of a cocaine laboratory suggests a diversification in the production tactics employed by organised crime groups. The cocaine market is a main driver for drug-related violence. the purity of seized cocaine has increased while its street price remains stable. Corruption of port officials and other competent authorities continues to provide one of the main challenges to law enforcement.
Heroin: worrying indicators to look at
9.7 tonnes of heroin were seized in 2018 across the European Union with a high proportion of the large quantities detected being seized in Antwerp. Laboratories producing heroin from morphine were discovered in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Spain and the Netherlands. Large volumes of heroin continue to be seized in Turkey where in 2018, 17.8 tonnes were detected. Furthermore, it was also found that heroin manufacturing has started to take place in Europe and a new heroin route is emerging, through the Suez Canal and across the Red sea towards Europe.
Cannabis: A changing market
Records indicate that 668 tonnes of cannabis resin were seized across the European Union in 2018. Cannabis seized by law enforcement authorities has been noted to be of a higher potency than previously seen. 40% of the drug seizures registered in 2018 concerned herbal cannabis, 29% was cannabis resin. 65% of all cannabis seized was detected in Spain. In 2018, 3.3 million cannabis plants were seized across the European Union. The challenges faced by European law enforcement who strive to tackle the highly lucrative cannabis market relate to new and evolving trafficking routes, smuggling via unstable territories and the continued use of various maritime vessels, civil aviation as well as unmanned aircraft. Herbal cannabis raises other challenges, such as detecting the cultivation sites which can be localised as well as dispersed; in addition to those challenges, the darknet is increasingly used as a platform for illicit retail sales.
Established and new illicit drugs continue to be manufactured and in support of the illicit production process there is a higher diversity of the chemicals required to produce them. Keeping pace with this illicit chemical requirement raises issues in monitoring those substances and ensuring compliance amongst the licit manufacturers. Analysis indicates that 790 substances were detected of which 53 were discovered to be new, in other words, discovered for the first time in Europe. Amphetamines and methamphetamines are mostly produced in Europe. Amphetamines are produced in the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium whilst methamphetamines are produced in the Czech Republic and to a certain extent in the Netherlands. Reports indicate that 23 MDMA (ecstasy) producing laboratories were discovered and dismantled, the breakdown indicates that were 20 labs in the Netherlands, 2 in Spain and 1 in Sweden. As far as MDMA is concerned, European producers plays an important role in support of the global supply.