• In recent years, the number of users who have experimented with cocaine – in powder or crack form – in France has quadrupled.

  • Cocaine seizures have also accelerated in recent years, with 26.5 tons in 2021, double the year 2020.

  • In question, the increase in production in South America, traffic in Europe and the diversification of consumers, white powder now enjoying a festive, almost positive image.

22 tonnes of cocaine mixed with sugar seized in Le Havre, 514 kg of the same drug intercepted by customs officers in the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, 141 other kilos found in a Paris hotel... Since the beginning of the year, police, Customs and gendarmes never stop seizing large quantities of this drug produced in South America.

If traffickers are sending so many of them to French territory, it is because demand is rising sharply.

“We are on something quite exponential in terms of consumption.

Which worries us because cocaine is a very dangerous product.

However, we note that it is increasingly consumed, in all circles, ”underlines the divisional commissioner Virginie Lahaye, boss of the narcotics brigade of the Paris judicial police.

After a steady increase since the 2000s, and a marked acceleration from 2015, cocaine seizures on French territory reached a record in 2021: 26.5 tons, i.e. double the year 2020, according to a report of the Interministerial Mission for the Fight against Drugs and Addictive Behaviors (MILDECA).

An upward trend that does not only concern France.

In Europe, 213 tons were seized in 2019, compared to 177 in 2018. In total, 69% of them were made in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

Are law enforcement more effective?

Or has production and traffic increased drastically?

Probably a bit of both...

A production that has doubled

Since 2014, the world production of cocaine – which is concentrated almost exclusively in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – has doubled, reaching a record level of 1,784 tonnes in 2019. The drug arrives in France in several ways.

By boat, from the West Indies, for very large quantities that often exceed a ton.

The goods are then distributed between the different teams of traffickers who have placed an order, and transported to the four corners of France to be resold at retail.

The most modest quantities are often transported by plane.

Paid a few thousand euros, mules hide it in their luggage or ingest it.

"It's a phenomenon that concerns us a lot in Paris because there are airports where planes from Cayenne arrive," continues Virginie Lahaye.

Finally, drugs can also be concealed in postal parcels, hidden among exotic products such as cassava.

Shipped from a producing country or from Guyana or the West Indies, its purity rate is very high.

This allows French traffickers to cut it with other products, more or less very dangerous, and thus multiply up to three times its weight.

If the traffic intensifies in France, it is because cocaine has found its audience.

Previously assimilated to a trendy clientele in the worlds of advertising, the media or sports, white powder now affects a wider audience, especially students and thirty-somethings.

Now, 2.2 million French people consume it at least once a year, four times more than in the 2000s. “Before, it was a niche product.

From now on, cocaine, in its hydrochloride form, that is to say in powder form, is the most widely consumed drug in France behind cannabis", worries the psychiatrist Jean-Michel Delile, president of the Addiction Federation, with of

20 minutes

.

Falling price

Dealers have adapted to consumer habits.

The deal points that used to mainly sell cannabis now also offer their customers cocaine.

As for users who are reluctant to go to the cities to get supplies, they can place an order on WhatsApp and Instagram and have it delivered to their home in a few hours, even a few minutes.

An uberization of drug trafficking which developed strongly at the time of confinement, in 2020, observe the police.

A sign that cocaine is becoming commonplace, its price has fallen slightly in recent years: from 70 euros on average for one gram of cocaine in 2018 to 65 in 2021. “There is a policy of mass distribution channels, so unit prices have dropped, making cocaine more accessible to the general public,” adds Jean-Michel Delile.

If cocaine in the form of powder is consumed mainly by 18-34 year olds, on an "occasional" basis, that in the form of crack, heated with another product to be inhaled or injected, concerns more precarious or marginalized environments.

In Paris, users of this cocaine of the poor haunt the streets of the 18th arrondissement or the surroundings of Place Stalingrad.

But their number is not increasing "not necessarily" because this variant of cocaine "is scary", notes Virginie Lahaye.

“When you fall into crack, you quickly become dependent.

It's a descent into hell.

It's more of a population of sick people than users who might find it fun to use it in the evening, like with cocaine.

It's not the same state of mind.

»

"Paranoia and Heart Attacks"

Unlike heroin or ecstasy, cocaine enjoys a festive, almost “positive” image, regrets the MILDECA.

"It is stimulating, it gives a feeling of power, of disinhibition, it boosts self-confidence and relationships", deciphers the psychiatrist, who recalls that even "if it may seem innocent, this drug can lead to paranoia and heart attack ".

Especially since in a few years, the purity rate of white powder has increased from 46% to 66% on average between 2011 and 2021, as it is less and less mixed with cutting products.

"We sometimes find cocaine 90% pure," warns the doctor.

Moreover, the police officers of the narcotics brigade are regularly seized by the Paris prosecutor's office to investigate consumers who die after an overdose, their chief also tells us.

The Parisian judicial police therefore embarked on a battle to dismantle the networks and save lives.

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