Report: Europe’s €24 billion drugs habit

Europe is tackling a massive growth in "legal highs", dubious drugs that skirt laws and are available to buyers in as little as 2 days.

Europe drugs

A report from the the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has provided insight into the European drug market, finding Europeans spend over €24 billion a year on illicit substances.

Based on data from 2013, the EMCDDA said cannabis accounts for around 38% the market, with an estimated worth of €9.3 billion annually and around 22 million European users. Furthermore, and increasing amount of cannabis is being produced in Europe thanks to advances in growing technologies, the report found.

Following cannabis, heroin and cocaine were the second and third most popular drugs respectively.

A major issue is so called “legal highs”, of which the analysis reported a total of 560 substances. These drugs provide a “low risk, high profit” trade for producers and vendors, and the increasing rate of their introduction means authorities have a hard time keeping up.

Although the report cautioned some terrorist groups do use the drug trade to finance their operations, the “increasingly fragmented” nature of terrorists in Europe at present suggest many do not engage in the drug market.

But it warned that drugs, particularly opioids, could be produced and trafficked from Afghanistan through the Middle East, with terrorist organisation involvement.

The explosive growth of new psychoactive substances means EU authorities have a hard time staying on top of the drug market. In the past 5 years alone, more than 380 new substances were discovered. In 2014, almost 50,000 seizures of these new drugs were carried out.

Many of these drugs are made in China and sold relatively easily over the Internet, with delivery to a user’s door in as little as 2 days.

The EMCDDA also warned that the flood of new drugs is already causing a range of health issues across Europe, but that the impacts were hard to quantify due to the sheer volume of novel substances.