Europe underlines rising NPS problem

Drug markets all over the world are constantly causing new challenges for governments. One of the biggest issues today is rapidly growing variations of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and improved methods to traffic them.

This conclusion comes as one of the NarcoMap project outcomes ( The project aimed a comprehensive research in 12 European countries, gathering and analysing detailed information about the drug trafficking routes, types and usage habits. In the final conference of the project, which was held in Vilnius this week, NPS problem was highly underlined. 

NPS pose a serious risk to public health (due to their harmful effects), because they are substances that are more readily available to a wide range of people, compared to traditional drugs. For example, only in Ireland, since 2005, NPS have become available in more than 100 stores in a very short period of time (the so-called head shops or smart shops) across the country. Suffice it to say that in the last five years, two new NPS appeared in the European drug market during only one week.

There is very little information available on the effects, usage, or dosage of NPS. Harmful effects to human health may not only be caused by the harmfulness of NPS themselves, but also by wrong dosages, mixing or usage by drug users. More and more deadly cases appear as a result of this.

The other issue is the evolutionary ways of NPS trafficking. Parcels containing these drugs are packaged in such a way that customs and police officers, and sometimes the users themselves, find it very difficult to detect the drugs upon receiving them.

According to a study, the most common way to obtain NPS in Europe is to purchase them via the Internet (60.4%), from friends (17.8%), from dealers (9.5%), through smart shops (5.1%), receiving a free sample (2.7%). Most of it is simply shipped by mail. 

Experience from European countries shows that several reasons contribute to the growth of NPS sales via the Internet: availability, risk reduction (no direct contact with dealers), dealers have unlimited opportunities to advertise NPS and they also have no spatial or time constraints as the dealers in the traditional drug market do.

Experts say, that in order to fight this drug trafficking more effectively, it is very important to have a tool to collect and exchange all the data about drug markets in every EU country. 

The fight against the NPS is only possible through the cooperation of all key stakeholders with an interdisciplinary approach. Cooperation: (1) prevents overlapping of data and research activities, (2) performs data checking, and (3) enables data updates. The efficiency of cooperation would significantly contribute to the creation of a single database that would be used by all stakeholders.

It is also necessary that those dealing with the suppression of the drugs be educated on NPS, how harmful they are, the NPS types and effects, etc. Education is not only important for the success in handling cases by police officers, postal service officers, prosecutors and judges, but also for the protection of police officers who come into physical contact with NPS while depriving the perpetrators of their freedom in illegal laboratories.

To help create a better mechanism to fight drug trafficking is one the major aims of the NarcoMap project. The outcomes of the project lead not only to better understanding of illegal drug trafficking mechanisms in Europe, but it will also help to empower all responsible institutions to fight this problem more effectively.


* The content of this press release represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Europe is improving it’s fight against drug trafficking

While drug traffickers are constantly working on new ways to transit drugs all over the world, Europe makes sure the answer to it is nothing less but up to date effective mechanisms to stop it all. In order to do that, the Narcomap project for the last two years was working on research that aimed at collecting comprehensive data about drug trafficking routes and methods in 12 European countries. 

The outcomes of the project lead not only to better understanding of illegal drug trafficking mechanisms, but will also help to empower all responsible institutions to fight this problem more effectively.

The Narcomap ( transnational initiative was funded by DG Migrations and Home Affairs and coordinated by RiSSC (IT – and aiming at:

  • Defragmenting and assessing of both the sources of data/information and the methodologies mostly used to generate quantitative and qualitative analysis 
  • Improving the existing knowledge base to respond to the specific needs of the diverse stakeholders involved mainly in a) the fight against drug trafficking b) the prevention/treatment of drug addiction c) monitoring/assessing the phenomenon

To this aim the project partners have collaborated to collect and further interlink information, direct and indirect indicators, and first-hand data coming from diverse sources and flows, with a special focus on an initial sample of 12 EU countries. The result is innovative because it combines the possibility to develop the criminological analysis of the phenomenon with a clear understanding of the limits and potentialities of available data.

The added value represented by this approach is to allow relevant stakeholders (international organisations, European and national authorities, law enforcement, policy makers and regulators, civil society, harm-reduction services and operators, drug-checking services, addiction treatment services, academics and researchers…) to clearly understand how the actual knowledge-generation process on drug trafficking is strongly affected and hindered by the limits of both data sources and flows. It is a sensitive issue since despite the efforts, even economic, a lack of/weak level of knowledge impacts also on policy and law-making, enforcement and intelligence, prevention and health-related services, civil society role, capacity building and awareness. 

To present the project findings on the drug trafficking routes in Europe, as well as to propose and discuss possible solutions to improve the data collection process and assessment in the future, the Narcomap project is organising the final conference “Narcomap: improving knowledge on NPS and opiates trafficking in Europe” that will be held at Vilnius University (Lithuania) on 16th April 2019 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The conference is finalised at transferring at EU level the results of the research activities carried out since February 2017 by a consortium of partners composed by the Research Center on Security and Crime – RISSC (IT), Vilnius Institute for Advanced Studies – Vilias (LT), Risk Monitor (BG), and the University of Criminalistics and Police Studies – UCPS (RS). Conference is organised by project partners, Vilnius University and The Center for Crime Prevention in Lithuania.

For a comprehensive overview of the project we kindly invite you to attend Narcomap final conference. Please check detailed programme of the event and registration form.

For any Narcomap project related questions or more information about the conference please contact us via [email protected]

Narcomap Conference organizers