Date of Publication

2021 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Transnational Organized Crime

Keywords

Drugs, Covid-19, trafficking, drug markets, drug transactions, global drug market

Description

"Drugs cost lives. In an age when the speed of information can often outstrip the speed of verification, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that it is crucial to cut through the noise and focus on facts, a lesson that we must heed in order to protect societies from the impact of drugs. Drug use killed almost half a million people in 2019, while drug use disorders resulted in 18 million years of healthy life lost, mostly due to opioids. Serious and often lethal illnesses are more common among drug users, particularly those who inject drugs, many of whom are living with HIV and Hepatitis C. The illicit drug trade also continues to hold back economic and social development, while disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable and marginalized, and it constitutes a fundamental threat to security and stability in some parts of the world. Despite the proven dangers, drug use persists and, in some contexts, proliferates. Over the past year, around 275 million people have used drugs, up by 22 per cent from 2010. By 2030, demographic factors project the number of people using drugs to rise by 11 per cent around the world, and as much as 40 per cent in Africa alone. There is often a substantial disconnect between real risks and public perception. In some parts of the world for example, cannabis products have almost quadrupled in potency, and yet the percentage of adolescents who perceive cannabis as harmful has dropped by as much as 40 per cent, despite the evidence linking regular use to health problems, particularly in young people, and despite the correlation between potency and harm. New psychoactive substances also continue to be a challenge, as markets witness the introduction of new drugs that are unpredictable and poorly understood. Regulatory and legislative steps have been successful in stemming the tide globally, but in low-income countries the problem is on the rise; between 2015 and 2019, South and Central America recorded a fivefold rise in the amount of new synthetic psychoactive substances seized, while seizures in Africa increased from minor to substantial amounts. Strong increases were also reported in South and Southwest Asia as well as the Near and Middle East. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost 114 million jobs in 2020. In doing, so it has created conditions that leave more people susceptible to drug use and to engaging in illicit crop cultivation. Furthermore, disparities in access to essential controlled medicines around the world continue to deny relief to patients in severe pain. In 2019, four standard doses of controlled pain medication were available every day for every one million inhabitants in West and Central Africa, in comparison to 32,000 doses in North America. In parallel, drug traffickers have quickly recovered from the initial setback caused by lockdown restrictions and are operating at pre-pandemic levels once again. Access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with online sales, and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some $315 million annually. Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic. Communicating facts about drugs and promoting science-based interventions is an absolute necessity if we are to reduce demand and supply of drugs, while also facilitating access to controlled medicines for those in need. It is also the surest path to eliminating stigmatization and discrimination and providing adequate treatment, as seven in eight people who suffer from drug use disorders remain without appropriate care. At the UN Office on Drugs and Crime we are dedicated to pursuing and promoting fact-driven, human rights-based approaches to drug control and treatment. I am proud to present to you this World Drug Report, which embodies our commitment to raising awareness and combating misinformation. It is my hope that this report will inform policymakers, practitioners, and the general public on the facts of the world drug problem, and provide them with a powerful tool to share evidence and information, and in doing so help save and preserve lives."

Comments

Suggested citation: World Drug Report 2021 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.21.XI.8)

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

World Drug Report 2021: Executive Summary Policy Implications

"Drugs cost lives. In an age when the speed of information can often outstrip the speed of verification, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that it is crucial to cut through the noise and focus on facts, a lesson that we must heed in order to protect societies from the impact of drugs. Drug use killed almost half a million people in 2019, while drug use disorders resulted in 18 million years of healthy life lost, mostly due to opioids. Serious and often lethal illnesses are more common among drug users, particularly those who inject drugs, many of whom are living with HIV and Hepatitis C. The illicit drug trade also continues to hold back economic and social development, while disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable and marginalized, and it constitutes a fundamental threat to security and stability in some parts of the world. Despite the proven dangers, drug use persists and, in some contexts, proliferates. Over the past year, around 275 million people have used drugs, up by 22 per cent from 2010. By 2030, demographic factors project the number of people using drugs to rise by 11 per cent around the world, and as much as 40 per cent in Africa alone. There is often a substantial disconnect between real risks and public perception. In some parts of the world for example, cannabis products have almost quadrupled in potency, and yet the percentage of adolescents who perceive cannabis as harmful has dropped by as much as 40 per cent, despite the evidence linking regular use to health problems, particularly in young people, and despite the correlation between potency and harm. New psychoactive substances also continue to be a challenge, as markets witness the introduction of new drugs that are unpredictable and poorly understood. Regulatory and legislative steps have been successful in stemming the tide globally, but in low-income countries the problem is on the rise; between 2015 and 2019, South and Central America recorded a fivefold rise in the amount of new synthetic psychoactive substances seized, while seizures in Africa increased from minor to substantial amounts. Strong increases were also reported in South and Southwest Asia as well as the Near and Middle East. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost 114 million jobs in 2020. In doing, so it has created conditions that leave more people susceptible to drug use and to engaging in illicit crop cultivation. Furthermore, disparities in access to essential controlled medicines around the world continue to deny relief to patients in severe pain. In 2019, four standard doses of controlled pain medication were available every day for every one million inhabitants in West and Central Africa, in comparison to 32,000 doses in North America. In parallel, drug traffickers have quickly recovered from the initial setback caused by lockdown restrictions and are operating at pre-pandemic levels once again. Access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with online sales, and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some $315 million annually. Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic. Communicating facts about drugs and promoting science-based interventions is an absolute necessity if we are to reduce demand and supply of drugs, while also facilitating access to controlled medicines for those in need. It is also the surest path to eliminating stigmatization and discrimination and providing adequate treatment, as seven in eight people who suffer from drug use disorders remain without appropriate care. At the UN Office on Drugs and Crime we are dedicated to pursuing and promoting fact-driven, human rights-based approaches to drug control and treatment. I am proud to present to you this World Drug Report, which embodies our commitment to raising awareness and combating misinformation. It is my hope that this report will inform policymakers, practitioners, and the general public on the facts of the world drug problem, and provide them with a powerful tool to share evidence and information, and in doing so help save and preserve lives."

 
 

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