Drug dealers took their business online to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, an EU report said Wednesday, adapting quickly to restrictions imposed across Europe to beat the virus.

"We are witnessing a dynamic and adaptive drug market, resilient to COVID-19 restrictions," said Alexis Goosdeel, director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction.

The pandemic accelerated the "uberisation" of the market, said Goosdeel. Ads could be placed online allowing people to order using encrypted messaging apps for home delivery.

"To ensure we are well-prepared to meet the future consequences of this hyper-availability, we need urgently to recognise that not only is a wider variety of people now personally experiencing drug problems, but drug problems are impacting on our communities in a wider variety of ways," he added.

Users also now had access to a wider range of drugs than before, increasingly pure and increasingly potent, the EMCDDA's annual report warned.

And while the effective shutdown of Europe's nightlife provoked by the various lockdowns hit consumption of party drugs such as ecstasy, other drugs took their place.

There had been a surge in consumption of benzodiazepines, for example, normally prescribed as anti-anxiolytics to ease anxiety.

The report also noted record seizures of cocaine: 213 tonnes in 2019, up from 177 tonnes the previous year.

"Cocaine purity has increased and more people are entering treatment for the first time," the report added.

Reacting to the report, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: "I am particularly concerned by the highly pure and potent substances available on our streets and online and by the 46 new drugs detected in EU in 2020 alone."

"As Europe's drug problems continue to evolve, so too must Europe's response to them," said EMCDDA chair, Laura d'Arrigo.

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