Home > The supply of heroin to Europe - update.

Donovan, Anne Marie (2008) The supply of heroin to Europe - update. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 28, Winter 2008, pp. 7-8.

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) recently published a technical data sheet, Monitoring the supply of heroin to Europe. 1 This review is based on the latest data and analysis available from specialised European and international organisations.

The review states: ‘The sustainability of a general or improving situation in heroin use in Europe has been called into question by a series of record opium harvest in Afghanistan’ (p. 4). Although estimates suggest that the prevalence of opioid use has been relatively stable in recent years, rising numbers of both heroin seizures and heroin-related deaths indicate the likelihood of increased heroin availability in Europe. The review notes that there are a number of alternative explanations for this development, such as the success of enhanced and targeted law enforcement initiatives, the use of synthetic opioids, the concomitant use of opioids and other psychoactive substances, and the vulnerability of aging heroin users to sustained problematic use of the substance.
However, increasing availability is indicated by a substantial escalation in opium production in south-west central Asia, in Afghanistan in particular. In recent years, more than 90% of the opium output detected worldwide has come from Afghanistan and it is estimated that the total 2007 production of Afghan opium allowed the manufacture of 733 tonnes of heroin. Afghan opium production doubled between 2005 and 2008 despite international eradication efforts. The continuing political instability of the region is considered a likely explanation for the growth in opium production (in tandem with very favourable weather conditions). The bulk of Afghan heroin destined for the Western European market is believed to travel through Iran and Turkey before entering various Balkan states, from where its is transported overland to the Netherlands and, to a lesser degree, to Belgium.
This review highlights the continuing need to monitor the impact of the Afghan situation in Europe. In particular, ‘answers are needed to questions of where opioids production is going; whether stockpiles are being constituted; whether there are signs of increased availability of heroin from Afghan origin in European consumer markets; whether the purity of heroin is being influenced; and whether consumer markets may be emerging or expanding along trafficking routes and elsewhere’ (p. 17).  
1. EMCDDA (2009) Monitoring the supply of heroin to Europe. EMCDDA technical data sheets. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. Available online at www.emcdda.europa.eu

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