Drug traffickers change tactics to avoid Covid-19 travel boards

Drug traffickers are adapting to Covid-19’s travel restrictions and border closures changing from the use of human couriers to shipping containers and commercial supply chains, European officials have warned.

Law enforcement experts say the illicit drug market has proven “remarkably resistant” to the disruption caused by the pandemic as traffickers alter the routes and methods used in wholesale smuggling and increase the production of illegal drugs in Europe.

Cannabis resin produced in Morocco and typically brought to Spain to be trafficked on land to the rest of the EU was increasingly being moved to sea routes using shipping containers, it said in its European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Report 2021 in March.

An increase in maritime seizures of heroin, usually smuggled ashore from the Middle East to Europe, has also been reported. Large seizures of cannabis and heroin have been reported in several European seaports in the second half of 2020, the agency said.

Highlighting the use of the company’s supply chains, the report said the new forms of tranquilizers appear to have been shipped from companies in China as bulk powders in Europe, where they are processed into finished products. including tablets, capsules and e-liquids for vaping.

Organized crime groups have also intensified illegal drug production in Europe, the report said. Despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19, cannabis cultivation and the production of synthetic drugs in the EU appeared stable at pre-pandemic levels. Signs of a possible increase in the availability and use of pandemic-related crack cocaine were also a concern.

“We are witnessing a dynamic and adaptive drug market that is resistant to Covid-19 restrictions,” said Alexis Goosdeel, director of the Lisbon agency. “We are also seeing patterns of drug use that are increasingly complex, with consumers being exposed to a wider range of highly potent natural and synthetic substances.”

Officials are concerned that an increase in insomnia and anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic could lead more people to self-medicate with new forms of tranquilizers sold by criminal gangs and often marketed as “conception benzodiazepines.” .

These drugs are not controlled by international drug laws and are often sold as “legal” replacements for prescription drugs such as Valium and Xanax, the report said.

Users may be unaware of the substances or doses they take, increasing the risk of severe poisoning, especially if consumed with alcohol or other sedatives, according to the OEDT.

“New benzodiazepines have been firmly established on the new drug market in Europe,” Goosdeel said. “It is likely that more substances in this group will continue to appear as users seek drug experiments or alternatives to prescription drugs unavailable.”

While street-based drug markets were disrupted during the first close in 2020, drug sellers and buyers have also adapted by increasing their use of encrypted messaging services, social media apps, online and mail sources and home delivery services, the report said.

This raised the question of “whether a long-term impact of the pandemic could be the further digitalization of drug markets”.

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