EMCDDA logo Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in the European Union 2001

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Introduction to the annual report
Chapter 1: Drug demand and drug supply
Drug use
Health consequences
Law-enforcement indicators
Drug-market indicators
Chapter 2: Responses to drug use
Chapter 3: Selected issues
Chapter 4: The drugs problem in central and eastern European countries
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Drug-market indicators - seizures, price, purity

Drug-market indicators: Heroin and cocaine | Synthetic drugs and cannabis
The data on drug seizures, price and purity analysed below were provided by the Reitox focal points. Differences with data published by Europol are due to differences in reporting procedures.

Table 5 OL Drug seizures in the EU countries, 1999

Drug seizures are usually considered as indirect indicators of supply and availability of drugs, although they also reflect law-enforcement resources, priorities and strategies, as well as the vulnerability of traffickers to enforcement. Trends in quantities seized are biased since they may fluctuate from one year to another due to a small number of large seizures. The numbers of seizures are usually a more useful indicator of trends at user's level. This is because in all countries they include a major proportion of small seizures from the retail level of the market. Where known, origin and destination of drugs seized may indicate trafficking routes and producing areas. Price and purity of drugs at retail level are reported by most of the Member States, but data are scarce and do not allow for accurate comparisons. However, they may give a rough indication of the availability of different drugs, alongside information on access to drugs at user's level.

Access to drugs by 15 to 16-year-old students

From ESPAD school surveys, perceived access to drugs by 15 to16-year-olds seems to have increased between 1995 and 1999 in all participating EU countries(1) except Ireland and the United Kingdom where it has been decreasing. In 1999, cannabis was perceived to be 'very easy' or 'fairly easy' to obtain by 20 to 60 % of the students, heroin and cocaine by 5 to 20 %, and amphetamines and ecstasy by 6 to 38 %. Perceived availability of illicit drugs is typically very low in Finland and quite high in Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

(1) Participating EU countries: Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom.

The 1999 ESPAD report, (full reference).


Figure 14

Figure 14


n.a. = data not available.
Differences that may be found between these data and those published by Europol are due to differences in reporting dates.
Sources Reitox national focal points, 2000. See also statistical table on number of heroin seizures.


In 1999, over seven tonnes of heroin were seized in the EU, of which one third was accountable to the United Kingdom. Heroin seized in the EU comes mainly from the Golden Crescent (south-west Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan), followed by the Golden Triangle (south-east Asia: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand), via Turkey, the Balkan Route and the Netherlands. However, increased trafficking via northeastern European countries was reported, especially via Russia.

At street level, heroin prices varied between EUR 30 and 340 a gram in 1999 across the EU. The highest prices are reported by Finland and Sweden. Heroin purity ranges typically from under 20 to 35 %, but a higher average purity is reported by Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom.

At EU level, heroin seizures increased up until 1991—92 and then stabilised. The number of heroin seizures has grown steadily in Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden since 1985, while marked decreases were reported since 1996—97 in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain. In every Member State, the quantities seized fluctuated over the period. In 1999, marked decreases in the quantities of heroin seized were reported in Austria, France, Greece, Ireland and the Netherlands, while in Italy and Spain there were large increases in the amount of heroin seized.

Heroin street prices are generally stable, although Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom reported a recent decrease. Heroin purity is reported to be stable or decreasing in all countries, except Germany and the United Kingdom where it has been recently increasing.

Figure 12 OL Number of cocaine seizures in 1999

Spain remains the country in the EU with the highest level of cocaine seizures. The cocaine used in Europe comes from Latin America (especially Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela) via Central America, Spain and the Netherlands.

Retail price of cocaine varies from EUR 35 to 170 per gram in 1999. The lowest prices are found in Belgium and Spain and the highest in Finland. Cocaine purity is generally high, between 55 to 70 % in most of the countries, except in Ireland which reported an average of 41 % purity in 1999.

The total number of cocaine seizures rose steadily since the mid 1980s in the EU and seemed to stabilise in 1999. Cocaine seizures increased markedly in 1999 in Luxembourg and Sweden, while they were decreasing in Austria, Belgium and Denmark.

Following increases up until 1990, the quantities of cocaine seized stabilised, and from 1994 on fluctuated within an upward trend. In recent years, quantities went up in France and Sweden and decreased in Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg.

Cocaine prices are stable in most countries, but are falling in Luxembourg, Portugal and United Kingdom. Purity is generally stable, though increased in the United Kingdom in 1999.

Drug-market indicators: Heroin and cocaine | Synthetic drugs and cannabis

Drug use | Health consequences | Law-enforcement indicators | Drug-market indicators
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