A European drug agency says it is seizing record quantities of increasingly pure cocaine and have warned of the potential “uberisation” of the drug trade as more people use smartphones.
The amount of cocaine seized by authorities in Europe doubled in 2017 to 140 tonnes - up from 71 tonnes a year earlier.
In the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)'s annual report on the trends and developments in the drug market, the agency warned there was amount of drug trafficking on social media and darknet markets where cocaine dealers use online “call centres” to deliver drugs users order online.
The report warned this could lead to the “potential ‘Uberisation’” of the drug trade making it resemble the American ‘ride-sharing’ company when users can book a nearby taxi from an app on their phone.
The agency, which is based in Lisbon, Portugal, warned these trends “are indicative of a competitive market in which sellers compete by offering additional services beyond the product itself.”
The data shows there are now over 1 million seizures of drugs annually in Europe (the EU28, Turkey and Norway) and an estimated 1.2 million people receive treatment each year for illicit drug use.
It also shows cocaine is the most widely used stimulant in Europe.
The report studied cocaine residues in municipal wastewater in cities across Europe. It found that in 22 out of 38 cities they were an increase in residue in 2018 with the highest residues per 1,000 people recorded in Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said “Today’s report shows the complex nature of Europe’s drug phenomenon.
Drugs remain a constantly evolving, multi-faceted threat to our societies, affecting the life of millions of citizens around the world”
He warned that the EU needed “to look at the role of digitalisation in the drug market”.
“We have no time to spare. We need to be coordinated at the national, European and international levels,” he added.