From the EMCDDA press release
The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) publishes its European Drug Report 2021: Trends and Developments, the latest annual review of the drug situation in Europe. Based on data from 29 countries (EU 27, Turkey and Norway), the report offers new insights into the health and security implications of a complex and evolving drugs problem and of a drug market resilient to COVID-19 disruption.
The report warns of the risks to public health posed by the availability and use of a wider range of substances, often of high potency or purity. It also describes how organised crime groups have intensified illegal drug production inside Europe to evade anti-trafficking measures, creating environmental, health and security risks. Drawing on the latest EMCDDA rapid assessment study, the report explores the recent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug markets, use and services.
Presenting findings from the latest EMCDDA trendspotter study, the report illustrates how the drug market continues to adjust to COVID-19 disruption, as drug traffickers adapt to travel restrictions and border closures.
Key findings from the report include:
- Cannabis use remains stable at high levels, but increased THC content raises health concerns — Rise observed in the THC content of cannabis resin (average range: 20%–28%). Health alerts warn of cannabis adulterated with highly-potent synthetic cannabinoids.
- Record cocaine seizures, a worrying signal of potential for increased health harms — A record 213 tonnes were seized in 2019 (up from 177 tonnes in 2018). Cocaine purity has increased and more people are entering treatment for the first time. Preliminary seizure data in 2020 suggest availability has not declined in the pandemic.
- Stable amphetamine demand makes domestic production near consumers profitable — Alongside the dismantling of production facilities in 2019, chemicals used to manufacture amphetamine were also seized in the EU, including 14 500 litres of BMK and 31 tonnes of MAPA (up from 7 tonnes in 2018).
- Methamphetamine production and trafficking highlight potential for increased use in Europe — Both large-scale and smaller production facilities are being detected in Europe and large quantities of the drug are being transhipped through the EU to other markets.
- Risks to health from supply of high-strength MDMA products — In addition to increases in the average MDMA content in tablets and the purity of powders, products with very high levels of MDMA are also being detected. Preliminary data from 2020 suggest there was less interest in this drug during periods of lockdown.
- Harmful potent new psychoactive substances continue to emerge — Among these are new synthetic cannabinoids and new synthetic opioids. A total of 46 new psychoactive substances (NPS) were reported for the first time in Europe in 2020, bringing the total number monitored by EMCDDA to 830.
- Are less commonly used drugs posing increasing challenges for public health? — These drugs include hallucinogens, ketamine and GHB. Worryingly, intensive patterns of use are reported in some settings.
- Large heroin seizures signal potential for increased use and harms — Large volumes of heroin are still being seized in the EU (7.9 tonnes in 2019), raising concerns around the possible impact on levels of use.
- Organised crime groups intensify illegal drug production within Europe — A total of 370 illegal laboratories were dismantled in 2019.
- Drug law offences increase, with cannabis possession and supply predominant — An estimated 1.5 million drug law offences were reported in the EU in 2019; 82% were related to use or possession for personal use.
- First-time treatment clients for heroin use continue to inject less — Although injecting drug use has been declining in Europe for the past decade, it remains a major cause of drug-related harms.
- Scaling up treatment and prevention is required to reach HIV and HCV Sustainable Development Goals — Increased access to integrated testing and treatment services is an important part of reaching targets.
- Overdose deaths driven by opioids and other drugs highlight need for service development — High-risk substance use and polydrug use continue to fuel drug-induced deaths in Europe.