Monday June 21, 2021

Drug trafficking in Europe migrates to digital platforms during pandemic

Published : 09 Jun 2021, 21:23

  DF News Desk

File Photo: Finnish Customs.

Drug trafficking in Europe managed to adjust to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and migrate its sales to the digitally-enabled market, revealed a report released on Wednesday by the Lisbon-headquartered European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), reported Xinhua.

"Drug sellers and buyers seem to have adapted, increasing their use of encrypted messaging services, social networking apps, and courier and home delivery services. This raises concerns about a possible long-term impact," noted the study titled "European Drug Report 2021: Trends and Developments."

According to data collected by the EMCDDA in the 27 members of the European Union (EU), plus Turkey and Norway, the demand for recreational drugs such as "ecstasy" has fallen, increasing the sales of substances linked to domestic consumption.

"The ease of mobility and travel restrictions and the return of some social gatherings during the summer were associated with a recovery in consumption levels" from the pre-pandemic period, the EMCDDA stated.

The report indicated that specific cannabis cultivation and production of synthetic drugs in the EU during 2020 continued at the same levels as before COVID-19.

Regarding illicit drug trafficking routes, EMCDDA points out that there was a lot of diversification, with more cannabis and heroin being trafficked by sea, which was confirmed by large seizures made in European ports.

According to the survey released Wednesday, authorities noted changes in the departure points of cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe, but there was no decline in supply despite the pandemic.

The Center also took note of a "worrying development" in the consumption and availability of "crack" since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In conclusion, the EMCDDA suggested that it will be necessary to pay "a lot of attention to the psychological and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic," as well as to long-term changes in illicit drug use patterns and the increased use of digital trafficking platforms.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said she was "particularly concerned by the highly pure and potent substances available on our streets and online and by the 46 new drugs detected in the EU in 2020 alone."

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel added: "We are witnessing a dynamic and adaptive drug market, resilient to COVID-19 restrictions. We are also seeing patterns of drug use that are increasingly complex, as consumers are exposed to a wider range of highly potent natural and synthetic substances."

"I believe it is crucial, across the areas of social, health and security policy, to develop the evidence-based and integrated responses envisioned by the new EU Drugs Strategy," he urged.