In the EU, like in most parts around the globe, the drug market is a major source of income for many. The 2019 EMCDDA report indicates as much as EUR 30 billion per year in retail value. And this is the lowest estimate. A relevant share of this income goes straight into supporting organized crime groups. Over a third of the 5,000 OCGs identified in the EU had direct links to the drug market, while overall this is considered the most valuable and profitable market for such organizations operating within the EU. Two-thirds of those trading drugs are also involved in additional criminal activities.
The drug market overall is becoming more globalized and more connected due to technology and modern communication devices. It is digitally enabled, using a plethora of available services on the dark web as well as the surface web.
Of the EUR 30 billion, cannabis accounts for 39%, followed by cocaine with 31%, and heroin - 25%. The remaining 5% are distributed between MDMA/Ecstasy at 2% and amphetamines at 3%.
One of the key issues and challenges is that these are mostly estimates, the actual figures – much like the market itself – are hidden. The knowledge gaps due to the lack of proper concerted action in many EU countries, proper detection, and proper collection of data hamper a better assessment of the actual situation.
Noteworthy is also that many DOA users come from marginalized groups, with less coverage than, say, the main interviewed or surveilled populations.
Much in the same vein, there is a social stigma attached to DOA, hence many self-reports are underestimated or completely absent and where technology should intervene, there is currently still a lack of proper devices for the purposes of drug testing and drug screening.