Record cocaine seizures across Europe

More than 300 tonnes of cocaine was seized across EU member states in 2021, according to EMCDDA’s European drug report 2023. Almost three quarters of the total was seized in three countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain – with the trafficking of large volumes through European seaports in commercial containers ‘driving the drug’s high availability today’, says EMCDDA. 

Provisional figures for 2022, meanwhile, show that the amount seized in Antwerp – a European hub for cocaine trafficking – increased from 91 to 110 tonnes from the previous year. Global production of cocaine has ‘jumped dramatically’ in the last two years, according to UNODC, with last year’s European drug report stating that availability was already surpassing pre-pandemic levels

Around 3.7m European adults used cocaine in the last year, making the continent’s most commonly used illicit stimulant, and evidence suggests that organised crime groups are ‘increasingly targeting smaller ports in other EU countries as well as countries bordering the EU’, EMCDDA says. More cocaine is also being manufacturing in the EU itself, the report states, with 34 cocaine laboratories dismantled in 2021 – eleven more than the previous year – some of them large-scale operations. 

More than 40 new NPS were identified through the EU’s early warning system last year, bringing the total being monitored by the EMCDDA to 930. A total of 74 new uncontrolled synthetic opioids have also been identified in Europe since 2009, says the document. While fentanyl derivatives and highly-potent nitazenes play a ‘relatively small role’ in the European drug market compared to the US, there are growing problems in some areas. 

The report also covers the changing legislative landscape for cannabis in Europe, with Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta and Switzerland either introducing or planning new approaches to regulate supply of the drug for recreational use – changes that will need to be monitored and evaluated, says EMCDDA. Around 1.6m people in the EU received treatment for drug problems in 2021, the report adds, the majority for opioids.  

‘This year’s report provides us with a stark reminder that illicit drug problems can be found throughout our society,’ said EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel. ‘Established illicit drugs are now widely accessible and potent new substances continue to emerge. Almost everything with psychoactive properties can appear on the drug market, often mislabelled or in mixtures. Today, we are highlighting the challenges posed by stimulants, synthetic drugs and new cannabis products. It is crucial that we increase forensic and toxicological testing to better detect emerging threats and safeguard public health. We also need to invest more in services, which are now called upon to meet more diverse and complex needs’.

European Drug Report 2023: Trends and Developments at

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