EU warns of rising narcotics production in Europe as new drugs hit market

BRUSSELS, June 14 (Reuters) - Narcotics production is growing in Europe, according to an estimate published on Tuesday by the EU drugs agency, which warned of a proliferation of new psychoactive substances being sold and consumed on the continent.

In its annual report, the EU drugs agency said that new evidence was emerging of rising drug production in Europe, confirming its earlier warning about the continent turning into a global hub for narcotics, and no longer just a consumption market read more .

"Synthetic drug production continues to increase in Europe," the report warned, noting that illegal laboratories in Europe churn out huge amounts of amphetamine, methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs for local consumption and for export outside Europe.

Drugs and the chemicals needed to produce them are still largely imported into Europe from other parts of the world including South America and Asia, but European criminal organisations are tightening their ties with cartels outside the continent in a bid to cut costs for drugs production and trafficking, said the report, which is based on information from European law enforcement agencies.

More than 350 labs for synthetic drugs were detected and dismantled in 2020 in Europe, the latest year for which data is available, the EU agency said, adding that law enforcement agencies also discovered more cocaine labs and production sites for new drugs, such as cathinone.

Cathinone is a chemical similar to amphetamine which is believed to be the main active substance in khat, a plant traditionally used in Eastern Africa and the Arabian peninsula for its stimulant effects.

The EU drugs agency reported record trafficking of cathinone in Europe, as part of the growing use of new narcotics, which "continue to appear in Europe at the rate of one per week," the report said.

Most dismantled labs of illicit drugs were found in Belgium and the Netherlands. Production facilities were also detected in the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and other EU countries.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, Editing by William Maclean

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