Europe’s stimulants market: is cocaine availability on the rise?

Europe’s most commonly used illicit stimulant drugs - cocaine, MDMA and the amphetamines - continue be associated with diverse and geographically differentiated patterns of use, and all have higher reported purity levels than a decade ago. This sector of the illicit drug market has grown in complexity, with the ready availability of new stimulants including cathinones and phenethylamines. Last year’s report highlighted increases in the availability and use of high-dose MDMA tablets, and this trend is still evident in the most recent data. The high MDMA content now found in seized tablets would suggest that producers are having no difficulty acquiring the precursor chemicals necessary to manufacture the drug. Seizures data also indicate that Europe remains an important producer for the global MDMA market.

Multiple indicators, including wastewater monitoring, seizures, and price and purity data, suggest that the availability of cocaine may once more be on the rise in parts of Europe. This drug has historically been the most commonly used illicit stimulant in a number of countries, mainly located in the south and west of Europe. New data reported here supports this, with increasing seizures noted along the established trafficking routes to the main European markets for this drug. In contrast, in northern and central Europe, amphetamine and, to a lesser extent, methamphetamine play a more significant role in the drug market than cocaine. For the amphetamines, a number of developments reported previously continue to be of concern. Among these are changes in the availability of precursors and in the routes of synthesis; the expansion of the methamphetamine market; and some evidence of increasing levels of injection and related harm.