According to the European report on drugs 2019, trends and developments, Europe has experienced far-reaching changes concerning the challenges caused by the drug world, including the appearance of more non-controlled substances.
Important changes have also been observed in the drug market and its consumption. The market is dominated by plant substances imported into Europe, and this means that Europe has been a market in which synthetic drugs and production within the continent have increased in importance.
These are some of main items stressed by the report:
- Globalisation and technical advances have reshaped strategic questions that European political leaders have to consider.
- At the moment, the number of people that require, for the first time, treatment because of cocaine use is low compared with past records, levels of parenteral consumption has fallen, and the annual number of IVH cases attributed to drug consumption via parenteral methods has gone down by about 40% over the last ten years.
- The opioid epidemic currently affecting the United States and Canada can be put down to the consumption of synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl derivatives. This is not happening in Europe for the moment, but it is a source of concern.
- There are signs that the growing availability of cocaine is generating more healthcare costs. Since 2014, the number of consumers that have begun treatment because of problems with cocaine, although this is relatively low, has increased by over 35%.
- Current data related to cocaine in Europe reveals that both the number of interventions and the quantities intervened have reached a record high. Cocaine enters Europe using different routes and means, but the increase in trafficking in large amounts to large ports, using intermodal containers is particularly noteworthy.
- The production of synthetic drugs in Europe, although this is difficult to control, seems to be growing, becoming more diversified and more innovative. Recent data shows an increase in the intervention of precursor chemical products, which is noteworthy.
- Over recent years, new kinds of cannabis have been developed due to advances in cultivation, extraction and production techniques. The types of plants established both in Europe and Morocco –where much of the cannabis resin consumed in Europe is found– have begun to be substituted by hybrid plants and several varieties that produce more potent cannabis.
- Throughout 2018, the EU warning system regarding news of new psychoactive substances received notifications of new substances once a week. A total of 55 was the figure detected in 2018, similar to that of 2017.
- In 2017, illegal drug interventions by law enforcement forces reached the figure of 1.1 million. The three countries with the highest number of interventions were Spain, the United Kingdom and France, which together amount to two thirds of the total of interventions in the European Union.
- Heroin is the opioid that is most consumed in the European drug market. Heroin enters Europe via four main routes: the Balkan route and from the south, which are the most important, and there is also a branching out of the Southern route that passes through Syria and Iraq, and the northern route.
- There has been a certain resurgence of MDMA, which is mainly produced in the Netherlands and Belgium.