European Drug Report 2017

Drug supply and the market

In the global context, Europe is an important market for drugs, supplied with both domestically produced drugs and drugs trafficked from other world regions. South America, West Asia and North Africa are important source areas for illicit drugs entering Europe, while China is a source country for new psychoactive substances. In addition, some drugs and precursors are transited through Europe en route to other continents. Europe is also a producing region for cannabis and synthetic drugs, with cannabis mostly produced for local consumption, while some of the synthetic drugs are manufactured for export to other parts of the world.

Sizeable markets for cannabis, heroin and amphetamines have existed in many European countries since the 1970s and 1980s. Over time, other substances also established themselves — including MDMA and cocaine in the 1990s. The European drug market continues to evolve, with the last decade witnessing the emergence of a wide range of new psychoactive substances. Recent changes in the illicit drug market, largely linked to globalisation and new technology, include innovation in drug production and trafficking methods, the establishment of new trafficking routes and online markets.

Monitoring drug markets, supply and laws

The analysis presented in this chapter draws on reported data on drug seizures, drug precursor seizures and stopped shipments, dismantled drug production facilities, drug laws, drug law offences, retail drug prices, purity and potency. In some cases, the absence of seizure data from key countries makes the analysis of trends difficult. A range of factors can influence trends, including user preferences, changes in production and trafficking, law enforcement activity levels and priorities and the effectiveness of interdiction measures. Full data sets and methodological notes can be found in the online Statistical Bulletin.

Also presented here are data on notifications and seizures of new psychoactive substances reported to the EU Early Warning System by the national partners of the EMCDDA and Europol. As this information is drawn from case reports rather than routine monitoring systems, seizure estimates represent a minimum. A full description of the Early Warning System can be found on the EMCDDA website under Action on new drugs.