I grew up hearing about Colombian drug cartels dumping huge amounts of cocaine into the United States to feed America’s insatiable craving for the fine white powder that made entertainers and socialites feel amazingly cool. Our government went to war against drugs with billions of dollars and helicopters, social programs and guns.

Eventually, for lots of reasons, cocaine use trailed off in the United States. In recent years, the drug lords have seen their trade route through the Caribbean produce fewer mansions, private armies and the lifestyle of kings. But they found a new market.

In recent years, Europe has been consuming more cocaine than anywhere else in the world. So my producer, Joanne Shen, and I headed there to find out how all that coke was getting into Europe.

Unlike the U.S., where coke was associated with high rollers and the rich and famous, cocaine today is the European everyman’s drug. We found it in pubs in England, public bathrooms in Italy and wherever young people gather to have a good time. The UK, Italy, and Spain have become the largest consumers of cocaine in the world. The bulk of it still comes from South America, but the trade route has changed.

Christof Putzel is an award-winning journalist for Current TV.”Cocaine Mafia” aired on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 10/9c on Current TV and is now live on For more information, visit