A recent report on patterns in drug trafficking and consumption in the European Union uncovered novel trends, including the consumption of new substances and the emergence of new distribution networks. In an email interview, Caroline Chatwin, a criminology lecturer at the University of Kent who researches European-level drug policy, explained the changing EU drug market and the challenges that remain for a coordinated EU-level drug policy.
WPR: How have patterns of drug smuggling and consumption in the European Union changed recently, and what accounts for the rise of synthetic drug use in particular?
Caroline Chatwin: Latest figures show a stabilization in the prevalence of drug use in the EU, but prevalence rates remain high by historical standards. Data also show, however, that drug consumers now use a wider set of substances and are increasingly attracted to newly developed synthetic drugs. It has been speculated that appetite for synthetic drugs is high because they are often legal, mimic the effects of established illegal drugs and are easily available via the Internet. Recent research also suggests that synthetic substances remain popular despite Europe-wide banning orders.