Share article:
Share article:

Covid-19 has taught drug dealers new tricks, says report

Part of a seizure of crack cocaine. © Argv0/Wikimedia

The restrictions caused by Covid-19, and in particular the lockdown, has forced the illicit drugs traffic to discover new methods which could present problems for law enforcement, according to the new Drugs Report 2020 issued by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

In normal circumstances, the annual report would give a run-down of the drugs situation in Europe in 2019. But as the report points out, we are now living in ‘a new normal’, and the report has been updated to take account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic came at a time when Europe’s drugs situation was mainly characterised by large seizures of cocaine, cannabis and heroin shipped by sea, along with an increase in the purity and market penetration of cocaine, and an increase in the volume and diversity of drugs being produced within Europe.

When the coronavirus arrived, many drugs services had to close or severely restrict their services, turning later to new strategies like telemedicine. At the same time, lockdown measures forced dealers to find new ways of operating, among them using messaging apps to order drugs, payment apps to receive payment and covert home deliveries under the guise of food takeaway to essentially take the traffic off the streets.

With smuggling by air transport virtually impossible, organised crime turned to maritime transport – a development that is likely to be permanent and present a problem for law enforcement in the future, as even the increased volume of seizures by this route can only ever represent a small part of the traffic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate, disruptive impact on drug use, retail supply and services, and has highlighted the special needs of people who use drugs,” commented EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel.

While the long-term impact of the pandemic remains to be assessed, in the short-term we are already noting changes, such as greater interest in the use of digital technologies in the drug market and innovation in drug treatment through e- and m-health solutions.”

There is a danger, however, that the economic repercussions of the crisis could lead to people becoming more vulnerable to drugs problems.

It is essential therefore that we act rapidly to identify and address new threats that may emerge from this fast-evolving situation,” he said.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...
Almost half of Belgian subsidies from EU left unused
Belgium left almost half (49%) of its subsidies allocated by the European Union between 2013 and 2020 unused, the equivalent of around €1.375 ...
Visitors to embark on Orient Express adventure at Brussels exhibition
An exhibition dedicated to the Orient Express – the train that was the scene for many novels, including Agatha Christie's – allows visitors to ...