Internet drives ‘new era’ for European drug market

Supply and demand of illicit drugs in Europe is entering an ‘important new era’, according to a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol, with both globalisation and the internet having a profound impact. 

Technology has been a ‘significant game-changer’ in the trafficking, production and distribution of drugs, says EU drugs markets, with the internet acting as both marketplace and communication tool, while globalisation has meant more countries being used as storage, transit or production locations. The market is ‘increasingly dynamic, innovative and quick to react to challenges’, states the report, with new trafficking routes and ‘multi-substance consignments’ replacing the trafficking of specific drugs along well-defined routes. There is also a growing trend for producing drugs close to their intended markets so they are less likely to be intercepted. 

The EU is now also a ‘key source of expertise and know how’ regarding synthetic drug production and intensive cannabis cultivation, it says. A total of 73 new psychoactive substances were officially notified for the first time in the EU in 2012, up from 49 in 2011 and 41 in 2010. ‘The speed at which changes are occurring and the parallel need to respond rapidly to new developments is a challenge to conventional statistical reporting models,’ says the report, the first time the two agencies have provided a joint analysis of the European market.

The increasingly joined-up nature of the market represents ‘one of the most complex and invasive criminal phenomena of our times,’ said EU commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström. ‘Organised crime groups are now more likely to deal in many substances at once and are more likely to join forces. National measures are simply insufficient, no matter how robust they are.’ 

The 2012 annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) also highlights the ‘unprecedented proliferation’ of new psychoactive substances and calls for ‘concerted action’ from states to prevent their manufacture and trafficking. ‘Clear action must be taken now by governments to prevent and deal with the abuse of these so-called ‘legal highs’ which are already a threat to public health,’ said INCB president Raymond Yans. 

Meanwhile, the Home Office has announced that a range of legal highs including methoxetamine – sold as Mexxy – and the synthetic cannabinoids contained in Black Mamba and Annihilation are now class B drugs. Methoxetamine was subject to the UK’s first temporary class drug order last year (DDN, April 2012, page 4). 

EU drug markets report: a strategic analysis at 

INCB annual report at