“Drugs Market proves resilient and adaptable despite Covid”

Is exactly not the headline to this article in the Guardian (“UK had highest number of young cocaine users in Europe last year – report“), although, it could have come from the business and finance section with a little rewording.

In short, the drugs trade is resilient to downturns, highly adaptable to changing market conditions, tolerant of product loss and has embraced the latest in technological advances.

And it’s purer than ever, which is a good thing for users. Let’s face it, drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one. It’s just been made criminal. Dealing with it as a crime won’t work, and has been shown not to work.

More young adults in Britain than anywhere else in Europe have taken cocaine in the last 12 months, at a time when availability is at an unprecedented level across the continent, according to the EU drugs agency.

A report on the latest trends in illicit drug use suggests that 5.3% of people aged between 15 and 34 in the UK took cocaine in 2018, the most recent year for which records are available. About half of Europe’s 15,000 crack-related treatment demands have been reported by the UK authorities.

The second highest proportion of cocaine users was recorded by Denmark and the Netherlands, where 3.9% of young adults have taken the drug in the last year.

Alexis Goosdeel, the director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, said cocaine’s role in Europe’s drug problem was increasing just as Europe was heading into an economic recession.

The purity of cocaine sold on the streets is higher than ever. The number of seizures in the EU reached the highest levels ever recorded, with more than 110,000 reported in 2018, amounting to 181 tonnes, suggesting an “unprecedented level” of availability. “It is a perfect storm we want to avoid,”Goosdeel said.

The additional concern in the UK will be that a significant proportion of the shipments entering Spain, Belgium or the Netherlands have subsequently ended up in the UK market. Last year, a Home Office drug review led by Prof Dame Carol Black found that middle-class drug takers were driving a rise in heavy cocaine use.

Goosdeel said organised crime had also proven to be “extremely resilient” during the coronavirus pandemic, fuelling a digital transformation of the illicit trade in consumer countries.

With street dealing affected by restrictions on movement, consumers and dealers turned to the use of online “dark net” markets, social media platforms and parcel and home delivery services.

He added that during the pandemic there has been an increase in the “cashless” purchase of drugs.

“The way to take a problem, and make it a huge problem, is first to ask the wrong question and then to feed us the wrong answer.” — Charles Bowden.