Drug markets and availability

Drug availability in 15- to 24-year-olds

The Eurobarometer (EORG, 2002) survey carried out in 2002 on the attitudes to drugs and opinions of young people in the EU Member States provides data on exposure to cannabis as well as perceived availability of illicit drugs. In the EU as a whole, 65 % of respondents claim to know people who use cannabis, and 46 % have already been offered cannabis. Depending on the country, 34–69 % (55 %) (1) consider it easy to obtain drugs near their school/college, 39–71 % (62 %) near where they live, 46–90 % (72 %) in pubs/clubs and 49–90 % (76 %) at parties.

(1) Figures in brackets relate to the EU average.

The number of drug seizures in a country is usually considered to be an indirect indicator of the supply and availability of drugs, although it also reflects law-enforcement resources, priorities and strategies, as well as vulnerability of traffickers to enforcement. Quantities seized (Figure 21 OL and Figure 22 OL) may fluctuate more widely from one year to the next, for example if in one year a few of the seizures are very large. For this reason, the number of seizures (Figure 23 OL and Figure 24 OL) is considered by several countries to be a better indicator of trends (48). In all countries, the number of seizures includes a major proportion of small seizures at the retail level (Figure 25 OL). Where known, origin and destination of drugs seized may indicate trafficking routes and producing areas. The price and purity of drugs at retail level are reported by most of the Member States. However, data come from a range of different sources which are not always comparable or reliable, making accurate comparisons between countries difficult.

As a result of a lack, at the time of the writing, of data on 2001 seizures (49) from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, analyses of the 2001 situation and of trends up to 2001 are incomplete. Data on drug seizures in the EU and Norway in 2001 are detailed in Table 1. In the text below, trends between 2000 and 2001 have been inferred from the evolution of the EU totals calculated from figures from the only countries for which data were available for both years.

According to Europol, global statistics show a concentration of drug seizures, with some 75 % of worldwide seizures of all types of illicit drugs occurring in just a few countries. These include Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the trafficking of cannabis resin, in addition to Morocco and Pakistan; Spain in cocaine trafficking, along with the United States, Colombia, Mexico and Panama; and the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the trafficking of synthetic drugs, together with the United States, Thailand and China (50).

(48)  Caution is required when analysing trends at EU level, as series start at different years in different countries. For more information, see Statistical Tables 31–43.

(49)  For Italy and the Netherlands: 2001 data on numbers of seizures are missing. For Belgium and the United Kingdom, 2001 data on numbers of seizures and quantities seized are missing.

(50) Further information from Europol can be found in Box 12 OL: Drugs trafficking in the EU.