Illegal drugs cheaper than ever in EU
Illegal drugs are much cheaper in the EU today than in the 1980s, making cannabis, cocaine, heroine and ecstasy more accessible on the streets, according to a new survey also showing that Spain and the UK take the lead in cocaine use.
The annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, launched on Thursday (23 November), says that "average prices were falling in most countries and for most substances, in some cases by almost half."
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It finds that the price of ecstasy fell by 47 percent while heroin fell by 45 percent between 1999 and 2004. Cocaine, amphetamines and marihuana fell by 22, 20 and 12 percent respectively in the same period.
The Lisbon-based agency expressed concern about drugs becoming cheaper and said it could result in "higher levels of consumption" by users, with negative health consequences.
Commenting on the report, the head of the European Commission's anti-drug policy coordination unit said the figures showed seizures were not having an impact on price or supply.
"What this seems to suggest is that a lot more drugs are in the system than we estimated," said Carel Edwards according to the Irish Examiner.
"If increased seizures are not having an effect on prices, indeed prices have come down, whatever we are seizing is not hitting the market," he said on the international "war on drugs."
"We should reflect on the last 50 years of a moral international crusade to reduce the drug problem in the world - the results are not exactly brilliant," the expert added.
The head of the EU agency that carried out the study, Wolfgang Goetz, pointed out that the decrease in price of cocaine followed an upward trend in use of the "celebrity drug" in the 25 EU member states as well as Bulgaria, Norway, Romania and Turkey, which the survey also covers.
Spain and the UK are still the biggest consumers of cocaine in Europe. In Spain's case this is because of the ease with which many Spaniards can get hold of it, as the country is the main gateway for the entry into Europe of cocaine from South America.
According to the report, at least 10 million Europeans tried cocaine at some point and every year between 7,000 and 8,000 deaths are linked to this and other drugs. This figure did not include related accidents, illnesses and acts of violence.