Easing of coronavirus restrictions has increased flow of drugs to Estonia

The amount of illegal drugs on the Estonian market has increased after restrictions put in place during the coronavirus crisis and emergency situation were eased. Police are especially concerned about young people and drugs sold over social media.

Access to illegal drugs in Estonia was hindered by the borders closing in spring due to the emergency situation and a fall in drug related crime was observed by police.

Rait Pikaro, head of the Drugs and Organized Crime Service of the PPA's Northern Prefecture, said supply chains were almost completely cut off and demand also fell.

"For example, in terms of ecstasy or MDMA use, we saw that if there were fewer parties, fewer gatherings of young people, then demand fell. There were more suppliers in the market and we concluded that there was probably less use. This shows that this fight [against drugs] is far from hopeless," Pikaro explained to "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Friday.

From January to the end of September, a total of 981 drug crimes were registered in Estonia compared to 1,140 last year - a 14 percent drop. 

Aljona Kurbatova, head of the Center for Drug and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute for Health Development, said the availability of drugs decreased in some places in the first half of the year.

"As consumers themselves have said, there have been periods when there was nothing to buy and at the same time there have been times when it was possible to buy everything," Kurbatova said.

However, Pikaro said the supply and demand for drugs have now returned to previous levels. The use of cannabis among young people is of particular concern to the police.

"This is one of the areas that recovered fairly quickly and this is something we want to tackle very strongly. The distribution of drugs among young people on social media is an additional problem for us," Pikaro said, adding cannabis is one of the first issues to tackle.

A recent study by the National Institute for Health Development shows that 38 percent of 15 and 16 year olds have used drugs and cannabis is the most common.

"The danger sign is that while the proportion of young people who have tried drugs in their lifetime has not risen in recent years, the fact that young people rate the risks of using them lower than ever before, and substances are more available, shows that we still face a difficult situation," said Kurbatova.

There have been 16 deaths caused by drug overdoses this year and there were 27 deaths last year.

In 2017, there were 110 deaths caused by drug overdoses. The number of overdoses has dropped significantly due to the decline in the availability of strong fentanyl on the Estonian market.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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