It is fair to say that the rest of the western world has watched the American opioid epidemic in awe, a crisis which takes many lives every day from opioid overdose deaths. Worldwide, the United States consumes the vast majority of prescription opioids. Subsequent government crackdowns on prescription opioid accessibility has lead to a scourge of heroin use – a drug that is cheaper, stronger and easier to come by nowadays. While Europe may not be facing the epidemic we face, they have their own problems that could be potentially more devastating.
This week, the European Union released a report which found that Europeans spend $27 billion a year on drugs, the Associated Press reports. In the decade ending in 2014, Americans spent roughly $100 billion a year on illegal drugs, according to a report published by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. When you compare $27 billion for 28 countries to $100 billion for one country, the staggering difference in spending can be seen. However, where the proceeds from the drug trade go in Europe may have farther reaching implications than proceeds from the American illegal drug trade.
From the Iraq War to the escalating ISIS crisis, a flood of refugees have been steadily migrating into European nations, and with it concerns of terrorist cells. The “2016 Drug Markets Report” found that drug offenders may be driven towards radicalization while incarcerated. While establishing a direct link between the European drug trade and terrorism is difficult, Europol chief Rob Wainwright has concerns that as the drug trade “becomes entwined with other forms of crime, and even terrorism, it represents a key threat to the internal security of the EU.”
The report stated:
“The impacts that drug markets have on society are correspondingly large and go beyond the harms caused by drug use. They include involvement in other types of criminal activities and in terrorism.”