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European countries have become so saturated with cocaine that the region is now exporting the drug to Australia, Turkey and Russia. According to a new Europol analysis of the drug market, record levels of cocaine production in South America and new smuggling routes opening up into the continent means that Europe is now a transit area for the export of cocaine. New trafficking routes are also being developed through West and North Africa for both air and maritime shipments of cocaine destined for European markets.

Les Fiander, one of the authors of the 2019 Drugs Market Report, said there were a number of reasons why South American production has soared in recent years.

“Organised crime groups have been able to expand their production, because authorities in source countries are not able to use anymore pesticides to fight it.”

The ongoing peace process in Colombia is another factor, he said, as the vacuum left by the Farc has been rapidly filled by coca farmers looking to make quick money.

According to the report, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain remain main entry points and distribution hubs for cocaine in the European Union (EU). However, smuggling operations are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. Last week a submarine carrying 3 tonnes of cocaine valued at €100 million was detained off the north-west coast of Spain. The submarine had travelled from South America and it is believed that the cocaine was destined for the British market.

The Drugs Market Report shows that the value of the drugs trade in Europe is roughly €30 billion. Cannabis, accounting for 39% of the total market, is the most consumed illicit drug followed by cocaine at 31%. It is estimated that 4 million European citizens used cocaine this year.

Heroin production, mainly in Afghanistan, is also on the rise. The knock-on effect means there will likely be a much greater availability of the drug in Europe over the coming years. The use of heroin and other opioids still accounts for the largest share of drug-related harms. The retail value of the heroin market in 2017 was estimated to be at least €7.4 billion.

The report also highlighted how the illicit drug industry in Europe is increasingly contaminating river water, drinking water and wastewater.

Cocaine is one of the main drugs tested for in AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing solutions. For information, including our home drug testing kit and workplace drug testing, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at info@alphabiolabs.com.