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It’s not just the future that can be read in the water. There is also the level of drug consumption. According a report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) broadcast on Tuesday 14 June, the supply and consumption of drugs in Europe are back at their pre-Covid-19 pandemic level, and even increasing with the emergence of new synthetic drugs.

To arrive at this observation, EMCDDA scientists analyzed, in the spring of 2021, the wastewater of 75 cities in 25 European countries. This study revealed “an overall increase in detections” of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines.


According to the study, ecstasy (and its active ingredient, MDMA) is the only drug “for which residues have decreased in the majority of the cities studied”. A phenomenon which can be explained by the fact that nightclubs and other party places were still closed in many European countries at the time the samples were taken.

According to the EMCDDA, drug supply “remains high across the EU” and even exceeds “pre-pandemic levels” for cocaine. “This indicator and others suggest that at present, there is no indication that the upward trend in the availability of this drug, observed in recent years, has changed,” said the Observatory.

In 2020, EU Member States made 64,000 cocaine seizures, representing 213 tonnes compared to 202 tonnes in 2019. Belgium (70 tonnes), the Netherlands (49 tonnes) and Spain (37 tonnes) accounted for nearly 75% of the total quantities seized.


“Conventional drugs have never been so accessible”

More generally, “conventional drugs have never been so accessible and new high-dose substances continue to appear”, the report is alarmed before warning that in the future, “almost everything with a psychoactive potential risk of appearing on the market”.

The Observatory is particularly concerned about the proliferation of drug varieties available in Europe. In 2021, 52 new drugs were “reported for the first time”, including “15 new synthetic cannabinoids”. These molecules produced in the laboratory, sometimes very highly dosed and toxic, imitate the intoxicating effect of THC (the psychotropic substance of cannabis) and are often sprayed on grass, sometimes without the knowledge of consumers.

Detection of “synthetic cathinones”, which mix cocaine, MDMA-ecstasy and amphetamines, is also on the rise


According to EMCDDA estimates, approximately 83.4 million adults, or 29% of European adults aged 15 to 64, have already used at least one illicit drug. Men (50.5 million) are more numerous than women (33 million) to declare this consumption.

Cannabis remains the most used substance (22 million) followed by cocaine (3.5 million), MDMA (2.6 million), amphetamines (2 million) and particularly destructive heroin (1 million).

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