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Drug study Swiss cocaine market estimated at five tonnes a year

A pair of shoes containing 500g of cocaine

A pair of shoes containing 500g of cocaine belonging to a trafficker caught in Lausanne in 2004


Around five tonnes of cocaine circulate in Switzerland every year, most of which is consumed, according to an interdisciplinary study focusing on Switzerland’s third-largest canton, Vaud. 

Researchers from Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), the University of Lausanne and Addiction Switzerland calculated the national figure based on an annual estimate for canton Vaud: 416-500 kilogrammes of cocaine in circulation. This figure was based on wastewater analysis and consumer data. 

About 9% of the annual total is seized by the police, the rest is consumed, the authors noted in their study published on Thursdayexternal link

They said that 16,270 people in canton Vaud use cocaine, or 2.5% of the local population. Regular cocaine users, including addicts, represent 20% of the total number of consumers but purchase 80% of the cocaine. Most consumers are occasional users, the authors said. 

They estimate that dealers and traffickers earn profits of CHF28-29 million ($28.1-29.1 million) a year in Vaud, based on sales of CHF47-57 million. 

“Apart from cannabis, the cocaine market is larger than all other drug markets combined,” said Frank Zobel, vice-president of Addiction Switzerland.

+ Read more about cocaine use in Swiss cities

In Switzerland, heroin generally transits the Balkans. Meanwhile, cocaine has been controlled since the 1980s by West Africans, mainly Nigerians who rely on “local, family and ethnic networks”. But cocaine dealers and traffickers include people from the Gambia and Guinea, as well as nationals from Latin America, Albania, north Africa, Lebanon, Switzerland and other European countries. 

Cocaine from Vaud comes from South America and generally reaches Switzerland via Spain and the Netherlands. It is often transported in small quantities, for example in ten-gram cellophane “fingers” swallowed by drug mules (up to 1.5kg). Alternatively, the drugs are hidden in luggage or vehicles. 

Cocaine is sold on the street, in private rooms, among friends or over the internet. Depending on the quality, a gram of cocaine in Vaud can vary from CHF100 to CHF1,500. 

The study also examined ecstasy and methamphetamines. Ecstasy pills generate annual sales of CHF3.7-5.1 million in canton Vaud. Annual sales of methamphetamines, which are traded in the form of crystal meth or Thai pills, is estimated at CHF2.3-3.7 million.

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