Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe while manufacturing of the drug is taking place inside the European Union, the Associated Press reports. More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in Europe in 2020, a six percent increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) believe that amount could reach 300 tons in 2022. With a market retail value estimated at 10.5 billion euros in 2020 and 3.5 million European citizens reporting having used it in the past year, cocaine is the second most used drug in the EU after cannabis. Its availability in Europe has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.
While most cocaine manufacturing still occurs in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, EU experts are worried about processing taking place inside the 27-nation bloc, particularly in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. Between 2018 and 2020, 45 illicit laboratories were discovered in the EU. Laurent Laniel, a scientific analyst at the monitoring center, said that cocaine powder is often smuggled from South America to Europe in carrier materials such as charcoal and plastics, then extracted in local laboratories. Alexis Goosdeel, the center director, said the availability on the continent of large amounts of cocaine base and paste increases the risk of seeing new forms of highly addictive crack emerging in European markets. “We are now facing a growing threat from a more diverse and dynamic drug market that is driven by closer collaboration between European and international criminal organizations,” he said. “This has resulted in record levels of drug availability, rising violence and corruption, and greater health problems.”