Weeks of travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak have hit the transnational drug trade and disrupted demand and supply for narcotics.
But global police organisation Interpol is concerned that some outfits might turn their eye to other forms of smuggling.
“Closed borders and travel restrictions increase demand for all sorts of smuggled goods, including food, petrol and medicines,” an Interpol spokesman told The Straits Times.
“This may present an opportunity for some drug trafficking organisations to take advantage of shortages and move into other areas of smuggling for some time.”
In the search for profits, drug syndicates may be forced to adapt and turn to prescription drugs if the regular supply of opioids and amphetamines is significantly affected. This could lead to a rise in criminal acts targeting the pharmaceutical industry.
Restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods affect the supply chain of drug trafficking syndicates.
“Factories have closed as lockdowns have been strictly enforced to prevent the spread of the virus,” said the Interpol spokesman.
“This has certainly had some impact on the supply of precursor chemicals for the production of synthetic drugs. This in turn has led to price inflation.”
The disruptions may cause drug trafficking syndicates to change their methods of transporting narcotics and the ways the business is being conducted.
Interpol expects a rise in drug transactions over social media, encrypted apps and the Darknet. There could also be an increase in localised production of illicit substances.
The Interpol spokesman added: “The reduced availability of certain drugs may result in some street dealers manufacturing fake drugs to sell, or heavily diluting drugs with other chemicals and substances, which could cause serious health problems and fatalities among consumers.”
Interpol will alert its 194 member countries to new drug trends and modus operandi of drug trafficking organisations.
The increased competition among rival drug trafficking syndicates for the shrinking logistical infrastructure and transport routes, along with a shortage in precursor chemicals and a decrease in demand for their products, could escalate tension and violence.
“Both the street price and wholesale price of most drugs are likely to increase in the short term, more so in countries farther away from the source of supply,” the spokesman added.