The topic of cocaine has been on the top of media and public discussions in Sweden lately. ECAD director Jörgen Svidèn addressed the debate together with Fransisco Santos Calderon, vice president of Colombia, in one of the biggest Swedish newspapers Nerikes Allehanda on March 21, 2010. Today ECAD publishes this article in English.

In his book Beauty and Hell, Italian writer Roberto Saviano says:
There is no product, no idea, and no article that has had such a growing market over the last 20 years.”  He is talking about cocaine.


According to police and customs and other initiated sources is cocaine on its way to be established in Sweden. Cocaine has until now been a rather minor problem in the country but this picture is changing.

 From having been restricted to the jet set groups in our major cities it is spreading to new groups, and to the whole country. The price on cocaine has fallen and today it is not just a champagne drug for the well-to-do people on the fancy nightclubs. This development is very worrying, not the least because of the great impact the production of cocaine has on the environment, direct for the priceless rainforests in Colombia and indirect for the environment and climate in the world.


Development in Sweden

In Western Europe has since long been the second drug after cannabis. According to EMCDDA is abuse of cocaine growing in a number of countries. In Sweden has cocaine until recently played a rather marginalised role, but there are reasons to believe that Sweden are on its way to be even with its European neighbours if the problem is not noticed. The Swedish customs confiscated 32 kilo of cocaine the first sex months 2009, compared to 10 kilos the same period 2008. The Police is reporting the same trend; a growth both in the number of seizures and in weight. In Sweden’s 25 largest cities it is reported that cocaine is the fastest growing of all illicit drugs.


The price on cocaine has during the same time been reduced dramatically and it is no longer expensive to abuse cocaine. One gram costs approximately 800 SEK, a bit more in the central parts in the largest cities and a bit less on the countryside. This means that the price has nearly been halved the latest ten years, which obviously makes it easier to recruit more abusers.


New groups

Accessible data indicates that nearly 80 % of all cocaine in Sweden is in the three largest cities. The normal picture of a cocaine abuser, the wealthy people around nightclubs, is on its way to change. Cocaine is still to be found there but it is misused in far more wide circles. The drug is now to be found almost everywhere. To take one example, nine out of ten people who contacted the treatment facilities in Stockholm this year because if cocaine addiction, was young construction workers. Cocaine is furthermore spreading to suburbs, smaller cities and to new groups, often to marginalised and vulnerable groups, football supporters and to office guys who need to be “refreshed” for their daily meetings. The police is also reporting that there is a tight connection between cocaine and violent crimes. There are also signals that young people snorting cocaine does not see themselves as addicts, though they does not inject.


Why worry?

We mean that there are serious reasons to worry about this development. One is of course that cocaine is strongly addictive and that it affects the central nervous system with severe damages to the body. There is however other reasons than just personal to refrain from cocaine. Cocaine abuse has widely more and for humanity greater effects than purely medicals ones. Misuse of cocaine has global consequences and that for two important reasons. Drugs in general are to great extent financing the wars and terrorisms we see for instance in Afghanistan and Colombia, where kidnapping and murders connected to this belongs to the everyday situation. In addition to that, the production of cocaine destroys huge areas of invaluable and for humanity necessary natural assets.


Around 70 % of all cocaine produced in the world originates from Colombia. The drug lords and the cartels have concentrated their activities in extremely ecological sensitive eco systems; in the Andes highlands and the rainforests in Amazons. These environments contain very sensitive ecological and biological zones. Colombia's rainforest accounts for 10 % of the planet's biodiversity. According to WWF has some 17 % of all original rainforest been lost due to devastation, not the least because of illegal felling to grow cocaine. This has huge impact on the greenhouse effect, when the Amazons is a great and important consumer of carbon dioxide. There is obviously a strong connection between cocaine production and global warming. The devastation of Colombia’s rainforests is furthermore destroying biological diversity, which leads to dramatically reduction and even loss of unique animal species.


To produce one gram of cocaine for an abuser, four square meters of irreplaceable rainforest is destroyed; for every hectare of cocaine cultivation, four hectare of Amazons forests are vanished. Only between 1990 and 2000 an area equivalent to the seize of Skane (a region in Sweden) was devastated to grow cocaine – and it goes on and on.


To grow their illegal crops, they furthermore use a variety of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to grow their illegal crops. These destroy biomass because of their high toxicity. In the year 2000 alone, approximately 4.5 millions liters of these chemicals were used. These chemicals, solvents, acids and bases are dumped into Amazon streams and rivers, damaging the environment and the normal functioning of aquatic ecosystems, especially the biological cycles and the very existence of their fauna. The quantity of chemicals dumped into the Amazon river systems each year is equivalent to two Exxon Valdez disasters.



Our universal environment is one of the most important questions and on the top of the political agenda, as well as for every man, all around the world today. We are fortunately moving towards a better understanding of our activities impact on the environment. On the present climate meeting in Copenhagen it is discussed nations responsibility to save the planet from further destruction. Still, every man has a great responsibility.


The drug lords cocaine cultivation destroys invaluable natural resources with huge negative impact for the environment. This will continue if the demand is not stopped. One important issue in this is to stop the glorification of cocaine, strangely enough often supported by popular culture and mass media. People using cocaine or contributing to idealise the drug are not idiots. They are as all of us capable of making rational choices. It is not only in Copenhagen important decisions has to be taken four our world. We all have a great responsibility for this!


Fransisco Santos Calderon                       Jörgen Svidén

Vice President of Colombia                     Director, ECAD