The cocaine market: global context


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This resource is part of EU Drug Market: Cocaine — In-depth analysis by the EMCDDA and Europol.

Last update: 6 May 2022

Western and central Europe is reported to constitute the second-largest cocaine consumer market in the world, after North America (UNODC, 2021a). Global prevalence rates are estimated to have remained stable between 2010 and 2019 and are particularly high in Oceania (especially Australia and New Zealand), North America and western and central Europe (UNODC, 2021a). Globally and in Europe, those in treatment for problems related to cocaine use tend to be older than those in treatment for synthetic stimulants (EMCDDA, 2021; UNODC, 2021b).

In the three countries in which coca cultivation is concentrated, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, coca leaves play a significant cultural role. In Bolivia and Peru, some cultivation of coca is permitted to supply licit domestic consumer markets for leaves and de-cocainised flavouring agents to international manufacturers of soft drinks, complicating efforts to control cocaine production.

Global seizures of cocaine totalled 1 436 tonnes in 2019, the highest quantity ever reported. The largest amounts were seized in Colombia, followed by the United States, Brazil, Panama and Belgium (UNODC, 2021b) (see Europe and the global cocaine trade). It is likely that even larger amounts will be seized globally in 2020.

The extraction of cocaine from the coca leaves takes place mostly in the three coca producer countries, which together are estimated to account for the majority of the global production of cocaine hydrochloride. However, cocaine-processing laboratories continue to be detected in other South American countries and elsewhere, including Europe (see Section Cocaine production: going international and involving Europe). Thus, while the number of coca/cocaine production sites dismantled in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru decreased by over 50 % in the 2016-2019 period, the number dismantled in the rest of the world doubled in the same period (UNODC, 2021a). In addition, seizures of intermediary products of the cocaine manufacturing process, such as coca paste and cocaine base, increased in several regions globally between 2018 and 2019. These trends suggest that cocaine manufacturing is becoming increasingly internationalised (UNODC, 2021a) and that Europe now plays a more important role than in the past.


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