Most of the identified drug supply chains to the United Kingdom follow well-established trafficking routes. Heroin originates from Afghanistan and is brought in through either Pakistan or Iran.
Cocaine is produced in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, with the Netherlands and Spain being the main transit hubs within Europe for cocaine en route to the United Kingdom. The Netherlands is the most significant source for established synthetic drugs, such as MDMA and amphetamines, while most NPS bought online originate from China.
Domestic production of high-potency cannabis does occur, although most cannabis comes from abroad; Africa and the Caribbean are the main sources of herbal cannabis, while resin originates mainly from Morocco and Afghanistan. Branded ‘skunk’ is imported from the Netherlands. Within the United Kingdom, supply chains take many forms, with varying numbers of transactions between the importer and the user.
Cannabis is the most frequently seized drug in the United Kingdom, followed by cocaine. As UK drug seizure data have not been available on a consistent basis for the last six years, data from England and Wales are used to comment on trends. The long-term trend indicates an increase in seizures of herbal cannabis until 2011/2012 and a steady drop thereafter.
The United Kingdom reports seizures of both cocaine powder and crack cocaine, with powder being seized more frequently. The number of heroin seizures has decreased since 2007/08, with the largest decrease between 2009/10 and 2010/11. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom reports some of the highest numbers of heroin and cocaine seizures and quantities seized of both substances in Europe.
The retail price and purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown below.
Drug seizures in the United Kingdom: trends in number of seizures (left) and quantities seized (right)
NBYear of data 2015.
Price and potency/purity ranges of illicit drugs reported in the United Kingdom
NBPrice and potency/purity ranges: EU and national mean values: minimum and maximum.
Year of data 2015. Herbal cannabis = sinsemilla.