A report released by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Thursday showed Turkey as the leading country in Europe in drug seizures.
The report says Turkey was a significant transit country for drug trafficking between Europe and the Middle East, though it acknowledged the country's strict drugs laws. Nevertheless, it also leads in drug seizures as the report points out that Turkish authorities seized more methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) tablets, 8.6 million, and more amphetamine, 6.6 tons, than all the European Union member states combined in 2017.
There were also more heroin seizures, totaling 17.4 tons, in Turkey than all EU countries combined. Since 2014, Turkey has participated in the EMCDDA's work and is a full member of the management board though without the right to vote.
Turkey both tries to shed its image as a transit country and fights against domestic drug use. In 2014, the Turkish government launched "The Rapid Action Plan against Drugs" to counter drug use and smuggling on multiple fronts. Efforts include outreach to addicts with rehabilitation and awareness campaigns, and operations targeting smugglers and small-time dealers carried out by newly formed "narco teams." These operations especially focus on areas near schools and other places frequented by young people, the most vulnerable targets for drug peddlers. The EMCDDA report says a record 140.4 tons of cocaine were seized in the European Union in 2017, double the quantity of the previous year.
The internet is making it easier for smaller groups and individuals to engage in drug dealing, according to the report. It pointed to evidence that social media, encryption techniques and darknet marketplaces hosted on websites that are not publicly accessible are playing a role. The report also refers to a potential "uberisation" of the cocaine trade. Similar to Uber's restaurant delivery service, cocaine "call centers" are using couriers to provide fast and flexible delivery, the EU's drugs watchdog said.
Another major challenge is an increase in the use of maritime shipping containers to traffic large volumes of cocaine to Europe, the agency noted. While the retail price of cocaine is remaining stable, the purity of the drug is on the rise, it found. Besides the increased availability of plant-based drugs such as cocaine, "We are also witnessing an evolving market where synthetic drugs and drug production within Europe are growing in importance," said EMCDDA Director Alexis Gooseel. The report noted that synthetic drug production in Europe appears to be "growing, diversifying and becoming more innovative." It listed fentanyl - the substance linked to an opioid epidemic in the United States and Canada - as a particular concern.
Last year, 55 new psychoactive substances were detected in the European Union for the first time, bringing the total number monitored by the EMCDDA to 730, it said.