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Drug markets

Production, trafficking, supply etc

Key reading:

European Drug Report 2013: Trends and developments

EMCDDA, 2013
The Trends and developments report presents a top-level overview of the drug phenomenon in Europe, covering drug supply, use and public health problems as well as drug policy and responses. Together with the online Statistical bulletin, Country overviews and Perspectives on drugs, it makes up the 2013 European Drug Report package.
Download: Full report

Afghanistan opium survey 2011

UNODC, 2011
In 2011, the Opium Winter Assessment has been divided into two phases. The first phase was carried out in December 2010 and January 2011 and covered the Central, Eastern, Southern and Western region, where opium is sown in fall 2010. The second phase took place in February-March 2011 and covered the Northern and North-eastern regions, where opium poppy is cultivated in spring. This report presents the findings of the second phase. Based on a qualitative assessment of cultivation trends, the Winter Assessment in the north and northeast of Afghanistan predicts a strong increase in opium cultivation for 2011. However, taking into account the results of phase 1 of the Winter Assessment, overall cultivation in the whole country is expected to decreased slightly. The result of this assessment indicates that the current high price of opium may lead to an increase in opium cultivation in Badakhshan, Baghlan and Faryab provinces. Baghlan and Faryab provinces were poppy-free in 2010. The increase in poppy cultivation in Baghlan and Faryab provinces may lead to the loss of their poppy-free status if poppy eradication is not implemented. The remaining provinces in the north and north-eastern regions, which were poppy-free in 2010, are expected to remain so in 2011.
Download: Full report (2MB)

Cocaine: A European Union perspective in the global context

EMCDDA, 2010
This report provides an overview of what is known about how cocaine is produced and trafficked into the European Union. It aims to provide a better understanding of the actors involved, the routes taken, and the scale of the problem in Europe. It also reviews some of the supply reduction responses already developed at European level. Its findings are based on the latest data and analysis available from specialised European and international organisations, NGOs and scholars.This publication is structured in a way that provides a condensed review of key issues relevant to understanding how cocaine reaches European markets. Background information on the chemistry and legal status of cocaine and crack cocaine, as well as key European figures, are also provided.


Download: Full report (3.1MB)

Home Affairs Committee - seventh report. The cocaine trade

UK. House of commons, 2010
This report looks at the cocaine trade, focusing particularly on:

  • Whether cocaine powder is now a street drug rather than just one used recreationally by the relatively well-to-do;
  • The influence of 'celebrity cocaine culture' as criticised in the UNODC's critical report on the UK in 2008;
  • The effectiveness of advertising campaigns in deterring use;
  • Trends in the use of crack cocaine;
  • International collaboration: the responses of the producer countries;
  • International collaboration: the EU's external borders;
  • International collaboration: effects on the transit countries;
  • SOCA's role;
  • HMRC's role; and The police response: possession and dealing.


Cocaine trafficking to Europe

German Institute for International and Security Affairs, 2009.
Report discussing the supply and control of cocaine throughout Europe.
Web: Full report (PDF)

Assessing the scale and impact of illicit drug markets in Scotland

Jane Casey and Gordon Hay, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, University of Glasgow. Christine Godfrey and Steve Parrott, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Scottish Governement, 2009.
This report provides initial estimates of the size and value of the illicit drugs market, and estimates of the social and economic cost of illicit drug use in Scotland for the year 2006
Web: Full report

A report on global illicit drug markets 1998-2007

European Commission, 2009.
The study on which the report is based has found no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced during the period from 1998 to 2007. Broadly speaking the situation has improved a little in some of the richer countries, while for others it worsened, and for some of those it worsened sharply and substantially', among which are a few large developing or transitional countries.
Download: Full report (PDF 693KB)

Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2008

INCB, 2009.
This report covers the latest statistics on drug traficking, production and consumption throughout the world. It provides an analysis of the operation of the international drug control system including, information on precursors, promoting the application of international drug control treaties, and measures that can be taken to ensure their implementation. Recommendations are made to Governments, the United Nations and other relevant organisations.
Download: Full report (PDF 2.7MB) Warning: large file

World Drug Report 2009

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009.
The World Drug Report presents a comprehensive statistical view of today's illicit drug situation.
(PDF 8.5MB) Warning: large file

Tackling Drug Markets and Distribution Networks in the UK - a review of the recent literature

McSweeney T., Turnbull P. J., Hough M. ICPR,2008.
This report sets out the main findings from a review of the recent literature on strategies to tackle illicit drug markets and distribution networks in the UK. The report was commissioned by the UK Drug Policy Commission and has been prepared by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, School of Law, King’s College London. The main literature searches for this review were conducted during late September 2007 using a number of search terms and bibliographic data sources. In drawing together the evidence for this review the authors aimed to answer four broad questions:

  • What is the nature and extent of the problem?
  • What are current UK responses?
  • What are effective strategies for dealing with these issues?
  • Where are the gaps in our knowledge and understanding?

This review restricted itself to domestic measures for tackling the drugs trade. As well as production control (e.g. assisting the Afghan government to implement its National Drug Control Strategy), there are a range of measures as part of the current drug strategy that are aimed at tackling drug markets and distribution networks within the UK’s borders.
Download: Full report (PDF 686KB)

Cannabis supply and young people

Martin Duffy, Nadine Schafer, Ross Coomber, Lauren O’Connell and Paul Turnbull, JRF, 2008.
How do young people obtain cannabis? A snapshot view from a large city and rural villages? The supply of drugs to young people is an emotive subject with discussion rarely referring to actual evidence, which is in any case scarce. What evidence exists shows that many young people gain access to drugs through older brothers and sisters, through friends and friends of friends, so-called ‘social supply’ networks. This study interviewed 182 young people aged 11–19, all of whom had used cannabis and/or been involved in cannabis transactions in recent months. This group is unlikely to be representative of young people in general, so the report presents a snapshot view.

The study looks at:

  • How and where young people got hold of cannabis;
  • What involvement, if any, they had in supplying cannabis to others;
  • How young people paid for cannabis;
  • Responses from schools and police to cannabis use among young people;
  • Implications for legislation and enforcement guidelines around cannabis use, in particular the issue of ‘social supply’.

Download: Full report (PDF 0.5MB)

Understanding drug markets and how to influence them

Wilson L., Stevens A., 2008.
This paper provides a review for policy makers of what is known about the economic structure of illicit drug markets and the business operations of high level dealers operating within it. It is based on interviews with imprisoned drug traffickers and dealers in UK prisons
Download: Full report (PDF 128KB)

The illicit drug trade in the United Kingdom.

Matrix Knowledge Group, UK. Home Office. Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. Home Office, 2007. 91p.(Home Office online report 20/07).
This report presents findings from interviews with 222 imprisoned drug dealers and traffickers. It provides a detailed insight into the operation of the market for illicit drugs, filling an important gap in our understanding. The findings will be used for the further development of policy and operations to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs. The report includes information on how dealers and traffickers enter the market, how they run their enterprises and the risks they perceive. Those involved in the drug trade claim that entry into the trade was relatively easy and the profits to be made were large. They also claimed that the risks they faced were not significant - not withstanding the fact that all were caught and imprisoned. They considered that law enforcement had an impact drug supply and markets, and reported that asset recovery caused offenders marked discomfort.
Web: (PDF)

Coca cultivation in the Andean region

United Nations. Office on Drugs and Crime.Publisher: UNDOC, 2007.
Download: (PDF)

Afghanistan's drug industry: structure, functioning, dynamics, and implications for counter-narcotics policy (with the World Bank)

United Nations. Office on Drugs and Crime.Publisher: UNDOC, 2006.
Download: (PDF)

Low-level heroin markets: a case study approach

Cyster R., Rowe S. UK. Scotland. Scottish Executive, SMRT, 2006.
This project reviewed the international evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the impact of low-level drug markets, which highlighted the need for a detailed picture of experiences in Scotland, and a common approach to reduce drug-related harms.

Afghanistan opium survey

United Nations. Office on Drugs and Crime.Publisher: UNDOC, 2006.

The supply of drugs within the UK

RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, RSA, 2005.
Who supplies drugs within the UK? How do they obtain them? How do they supply them? What profits are to be made? And what efforts are made to interdict supply? This detailed paper discusses all these issues and more.
Download: Full report (PDF 251KB)

Tackling prison drug markets: an exploratory qualitative study

Penfold C., Turnball P.J. Webster R., Home Office, 2005.
This study investigated drug supply and demand in six local prisons in England.
Download: Full report (PDF 343KB)

Literature review on upper level drug trafficking

Dorn N., Levi M., King L. UK. Home Office. Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. National Offender Management Service. Reconviction Analysis Section, 2005.
(Home Office Online Report 22/05). ISBN 1844735796 This review concluded that upper level drug markets can be understood as networking (including patterns of avoidance) and transactions between three broad 'types' of traffickers (and variants). All typologies are conceptual devices, potentially useful for drawing out features of environments that are always more complex, more 'mixed' than the typology is capable of capturing. In addition, criminal organisation may change over time. The typology presented should be regarded as an analytic grid or as a working language, not as a series of watertight compartments.
Download: Full review (PDF 427KB)

Law enforcement and supply reduction

Roberts M., Klein A., Trace M. DrugScope., Beckley Foundation, 2005.
(DrugScope Report 3). (The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme). This report examines the approach to drug policy that has dominated the field for much of the past 40 years and is sometimes characterised as the ‘war on drugs’ approach. Topics covered include supply reduction; production; interdiction; domestic campaigns; and limits on drug policy.
Download: Full report (PDF 136KB)

The economic impact of drugs

RSA Commission on illegal drugs, 2005.
This paper considers the economic impact of drugs and examines the size of the drugs industry, what the profits are and who makes them.
Download: Full report (PDF 0.8MB)