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.

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

COCAINE EUROPE / 17 JUN 2021

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

COCA / 25 MAR 2021

The sheer size of Colombia's reserves makes them a target for the illegal clearing, appropriation and sale of protected land.

COLOMBIA / 21 JUL 2022

Videos showing an ex-FARC Mafia group patrolling Tibú, Colombia, demonstrate the state’s weakening grip on the Catatumbo subregion.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…