For thirty years, the most popular hard drug in the Czech Republic has been the Czech-made methamphetamine pervitin. Recently, however, the Czech anti-drug authorities have noticed that the price as well as popularity of cocaine is on the increase. Does this mean that as Czechs have become richer their drug habits have also changed?
Ten years ago cocaine use was almost exclusively confined to the rich here in the Czech Republic, and it was typically imported and distributed by foreigners. Now, Czechs are bringing the drug into the country - often via Holland - in large quantities. Jaroslav Hajek is from the National Drug Headquarters.
"In the year of 2005, about 160 kg of cocaine was seized with Operation Attila. It came through the channel beginning on Dutch Antilles and going to the Netherlands, but it was organized from the Czech Republic, and the criminals were mostly Slovaks and Czechs. We have evidence that prices go down, availability of cocaine is bigger, and there are more users of cocaine."
Pervitin, also known as methamphetamine, on the other hand, is a local invention. It has similar effects to cocaine but has always been much cheaper because it can be prepared from freely available medicines. With more cocaine imported to the Czech market, and with its price going down, could cocaine replace pervitin as the most popular hard drug in the Czech Republic? Jaroslav Hajek suggests that this might be behind the considerable drop in the price of cocaine.
"There are a couple of reasons why cocaine is coming to the Czech Republic and its price is falling down. The most probable reason might be that drug cartels and drug traffickers want to establish themselves on the Czech market. They are trying to replace the most common drug - pervitin - in favour of their cocaine. That's why they lower the price."
But most anti-drug experts claim that the tradition and the availability of pervitin makes its position so exclusive that no foreign competition, not even cocaine, can replace it. They also suggest cocaine is increasingly popular because it is a trendy drug to take. I asked Alice Holeckova, the head of Drop-in street workers in Prague, if she thought that cocaine might eventually take pervitin's position as the most popular drug on the Czech market.
"I don't think so. Maybe, if access to pervitin and heroin is restricted by the law or other repressive measures, cocaine may temporarily be more popular then those two drugs. But I don't think this would be a permanent situation. I believe than cocaine will not be pushed away, but it will be just one of the less popular substances."
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