The drug trade in Europe has adapted to the conditions of the corona pandemic.

While record levels of cocaine are being seized in European ports, cannabis cultivation and synthetic drug production are stable at pre-pandemic levels, according to a new report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), which was released in Lisbon on Wednesday has been presented.

"We are currently experiencing a dynamic and adaptable drug market that is able to withstand Covid-19 restrictions," said EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel.

David Klaubert

Editor in the section “Germany and the World”.

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    Sewage analyzes in several European cities show that the use of most drugs had declined during the first tough lockdown measures at the start of the pandemic. But with the loosening of the restrictions, it shot up again. An exception, it is said, are synthetic drugs such as MDMA and metamphetamines, which are particularly consumed in nightlife. In 2020, their concentration in the wastewater of almost all cities involved in the analysis was lower than before. On the other hand, the interest in drugs that would be consumed at home seems to have grown - which apparently the manufacturers have also adjusted.

    As reported by Dutch observatories, tablets with a lower concentration of active ingredients were put on the market there, which are more intended for use in private surroundings. Apparently driven by the pandemic, the trend towards more cannabis being grown at home continued in 2020, according to the EMCDDA report. It is also worrying that in connection with the pandemic, the supply and consumption of crack has increased in some countries.

    Drug smugglers responded to travel restrictions and closed borders by shifting their routes. More cannabis and heroin were transported by sea. And with cocaine from South America, too, the criminals rely less on human couriers. After records of seizures in European ports in 2019, the preliminary figures for 2020 also indicated that the availability of cocaine did not decline during the pandemic, writes the EMCDDA.

    Dealers and buyers have reacted to restrictions on street sales resulting from the Corona measures by increasingly communicating via the Internet, social media apps and encrypted messaging services and by having the drugs transported via postal and delivery services. A long-term impact of the pandemic could also be further digitization of the drug markets.