Migration and Home Affairs

International cooperation

Drug use in the world

  • Around the world, 264 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 used an illicit drug in 2013
  • Some 27 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders or drug dependence
  • In 2014 15% of new AIDS cases in Europe were attributed to injecting drug use
  • An estimated 1.65 million of those who inject drugs were living with HIV in 2013
  • In April 2016 the United Nation's General Assembly held a Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs

Drugs are a global problem. Production, trafficking and the use of illicit drugs do not stop at the borders. Tackling the drugs problem is a shared responsibility of countries worldwide to protect what is at the heart of the international community: the people.

The EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 aims to further strengthen coordination between EU countries and its international partners.

The EU's approach on cooperation with third countries on drugs focuses on specific drug trafficking routes, involving producer, transit and consumer markets. The EU conducts regular experts' dialogues on drugs with the CELAC, Central Asia, Eastern Partnership, Russia, the US and the Western Balkans. With candidate and potential candidate countries the drug related acquis is addressed within chapters 23 and 24 of accession negotiations. With countries from the Southern and Eastern Neighborhood, drug policy is discussed in the context of Justice and Security sub-committees.

The EU has also agreed on action plans to address drugs with a number of countries and provides assistance for a wide range of drugs-related projects in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa along the cocaine trafficking route, and in Afghanistan and Central Asia along the heroin route. The EU is also stepping up cooperation with the European Neighbourhood Policy countries and with Russia, to address illicit drugs.

Particular priority is given to technical assistance projects in the candidate countries and potential candidate countries, such as Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans, to help prepare for their possible accession to the EU.

Cooperation between the EU and other regions or countries has a significant role to play in preventing relevant chemicals (drug precursors) from ending up in the illicit manufacture of dangerous substances, such as ecstasy. The EU has bi-lateral agreements with many countries to prevent the diversion of precursors from licit trade to the illicit manufacture of drugs.

The EU funds major drug-related projects in third countries, mainly via EU Regional Programmes such as:

International Organisations

The EU cooperates with other international organisations working in the field of illicit drugs and takes coordinated action in the global efforts against drugs:

The international framework for regulating the production, export, import, distribution, trade, use and possession of illicit drugs is defined by three United Nations Conventions (30 March 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol; 21 February 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances; 20 December 1988 UN Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances). Most UN member states are party to these conventions and have introduced drug control measures.

2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs

On 19-21 April 2016 the United Nation's General Assembly held a Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs to review the progress in implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action, including an assessment of achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem, in the framework of the three UN Drug Control Conventions and other relevant UN instruments.

The EU and its Member States adopted a common position whose main lines were defended during UNGASS. The EU prioritizes the commitment to the UN Drug Control Conventions and favours drug policies that strike the right balance between public health and human rights approaches on the one hand, and efficient policies to counter drugs trafficking on the other.

UNGASS adopted an Outcome Document that reflects many of the priorities from the EU Common Position.

The EU was represented at UNGASS by Commissioner Mimica who delivered a statementwelcoming the re-balancing of global drug policies towards sound public health and human rights. He also delivered an EU explanation of position, deeply regretting that the Outcome Document did not address death penalty. This statement was supported by 28 countries that alongside the EU promoted the abolition of the death penalty for drug related offences.

Drug Trafficking Routes


Cannabis is produced in over 176 countries. Some 54% of cannabis is grown in the Americas, 26% in Africa (Morocco is main producer), 15% in Asia, 4% in Europe and 1% in Oceania.


Most cocaine in the world is produced in the Andean region (Bolivia, Colombia and Peru). West Africa is a transit and storage zone for trafficking cocaine from South America to Europe, while Latin American countries are increasingly becoming transit and consumer countries as well.

Ecstasy / amphetamines

Ecstasy and amphetamines are mostly produced within the EU.

The Netherlands and Belgium are the main producers of ecstasy (with Poland, Estonia and Lithuania running up). The Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Belgium are the main producers of amphetamines. The chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs (precursors) originate mostly from outside the EU (China, India).


Most heroin in the world originates from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Laos, with Afghanistan being overwhelmingly the biggest producer. Most heroin reaches Europe via Central Asia and the Balkan routes, starting in Turkey via Bulgaria, FYROM, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia into Italy or Slovenia; via FYROM into Kosovo or Albania into Greece. A route via Ukraine and Romania is also gaining importance.