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The EU drugs agency has reported that around 52 new 'psychoactive' drugs were discovered across Europe in 2021, representing a sharp and notable rise.
The agency dedicated much of its annual EMCDDA report to the topic, warning against an increase in 'synthetic drug production' on the continent.
They add that new drugs, emerging from hundreds of different laboratories, appeared at a rate of around one per week in 2021 – or 52 across the whole calendar year.
Belgium and the Netherlands were identified as hotbeds of drug production, with more than 350 production facilities being discovered around Europe in 2020 alone.
Synthetic opioids and cannabinoids variants accounted for many of the new substances, Sky News reports.
The EU Drugs agency also highlight how globalisation is making it trickier to shut down key supply lines, as their report cites 'growing links' between European crime syndicates and their Mexican cartel counterparts.
Further to this, Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has the potential to worsen the situation, according to the report.
It states new smuggling routes could sprout from the ongoing war due to groups 'seeking to avoid areas with a heightened security presence'.
The document goes on to state that people witnessing 'severe psychological stress' could make them more vulnerable to 'substance misuse' if the correct support is not in place.
The situation in Afghanistan was also mentioned as a particular area of concern, an area in which copious amounts of opium poppies are said to be grown.
Since NATO's withdrawal from the country last year, "Afghanistan's economic and humanitarian crisis has deepened," the report states.
While the implications of this cannot be quantified, the publication adds that 'historically, poverty and insecurity has fuelled the cultivation, production and trafficking of illicit drugs'.
Back in Europe, Germany's coalition government has very recently given the green light for plans to legalise the sale of cannabis for recreational use, sparking intense debate within the country.
Hundreds of medical and legal experts are set to be consulted on the new laws around cannabis, which could come into effect later this year.
Marijuana sales are decriminalised in various other places, such as Holland, with its use for medical purposes permitted in many more regions around the world.
The German government will actively monitor the 'social effects' of the new legislation, should it be passed, according to reports.
While the likes of Germany and the US have made moves towards legalising cannabis over the past decade, no such legalisation is set to be approved in the UK anytime soon.
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