HomeNewsBriefWill Synthetic Drugs Replace Cocaine in Latin America?
BRIEF

Will Synthetic Drugs Replace Cocaine in Latin America?

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

A high-ranking official in Peru has suggested synthetic drugs will fill the void left by a shrinking market for cocaine, a perhaps exaggerated claim that nonetheless reflects changing patterns in drug consumption. 

"The cocaine market is going to be reduced over the next two decades... but the world will have a very dangerous synthetic drug market that is going to need to be regulated," said Peru's anti-drug czar, Alberto Otarola, on November 10. The official's comment came one day prior to the start of the 58th session of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) being held in Trujillo, Peru.

Otarola offered as evidence for his claim the huge variety of synthetic drugs being produced, which has frustrated interdiction efforts. According to the CICAD, authorities from around the world have so far detected 300 different classes of synthetic drugs. 

"A new [synthetic] drug is being created every day," Otarola said. 

Otarola added that trafficking synthetic drugs is "now much easier" than smuggling cocaine, since many of the drugs are not expressly prohibited by law. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Otarola's remark reflects the growing concern over a burgeoning synthetic drug market in Latin America. A 2014 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggested that synthetic drug consumption is increasing throughout much of Central and South America, particularly Brazil and Argentina. The growing synthetic drug threat has been compounded by authorities who find themselves unprepared to respond to the wave of new drugs reaching the market. 

In fact, this is not the first time synthetic drugs have been seen as usurping cocaine's importance in Latin America. Following the seizure of over 3,000 capsules of the drug 2CB in 2013, a Colombian police chief claimed synthetic drugs are "gradually replacing cocaine."

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

But the predicted fall of the cocaine industry may be overblown. To be sure, cocaine usage in the United States -- long the world's top consumer of the illicit drug -- has fallen by an estimated 50 percent during the past eight years, while European markets also appear to be contracting. However, US drug official William Brownfield recently stated that cocaine consumption is once again on the rise, paralleling a huge jump in coca production in Colombia. Cocaine is also becoming increasingly popular among South American teenagers, suggesting it will remain a drug in high demand for the foreseeable future.  

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 10 JAN 2013

Colombia's main criminal groups and leftist guerrillas along the Pacific Coast have aligned to traffic drugs in certain areas but…

COLOMBIA / 8 JUL 2011

Eight Colombian soldiers have been sentenced to 60 years each in prison after being found guilty of the…

COLOMBIA / 17 JUN 2021

A criminal group in Colombia is turning dirty money into adulterated gold, in the latest addition to a long list…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.