World Drug Report 2018: Women and Youth in the Drug Economy



The UNODC’s World Drug Report 2018 provides information on the mayor developments in the global drug markets. It is an important evidence base for shaping drug policies worldwide. GPDPD on behalf of BMZ has supported the research for the special chapter on women and youth.

The World Drug Report (WDR) published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) once a year informs about the current trends in global consumption, trafficking and cultivation of illegal drugs. For over 20 years, the report has been shedding light on the mayor developments in the global drug markets. The WDR provides an evidence-based, comprehensive picture of the world drug situation and is therefore one of the most important basis of decision-making for shaping drug policies worldwide.

The annual analysis deals with various questions: How extensive is the current demand for substances such as opiates, stimulants or new psychoactive substances? What are the consequences of drug use, trafficking and cultivation for individual and public health? How does the drug problem affect the sustainable development of societies and how does it relate to the implementation of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

In addition, the World Drug Report regularly devotes a special chapter to a key topic, for example Alternative Development in 2016. The Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) on behalf of BMZ has supported the research for Booklets 4 and 5 of the World Drug Report 2018. These booklets provide information on the role of youth and women in drug cultivation and trafficking, and on the patterns and consequences of drug use among women. Both populations play a key role in shaping development- and health-oriented drug policies and in the field of alternative development.

Adolescents and children in the Global South often have to help their families grow coca, opium poppy or marijuana to secure their income and therefore stay away from school. They are often more exposed to criminal networks than adults are, and are forcibly recruited for courier activities and drug smuggling, among others. In poor urban areas with weak state institutions, youngsters lacking career prospects often join violent gangs to strengthen their social status. In order to win recognition of the group, they often become consumers or dealers themselves.

Women in drug cultivation areas in mostly marginalised rural regions often experience double burdens: On the one hand, they have to fulfil various tasks in agricultural production; on the other hand, they are responsible for the housework as well as the care and nutrition of the family. As a result, they are also more affected by crop losses and more committed to finding and securing legal income alternatives to illegal drug crops than men are. However, women are usually disadvantaged when it comes to access to resources and participation in decision-making processes.

The situation of women and men must also be clearly distinguished in relation to drug use. Women who use drugs often suffer from stigmatisation – their use is more often found to be immoral and incompatible with their socially assigned gender roles. Moreover, women experience the medical and social consequences of drug use faster than men. At the same time, they have less access to care and treatment.

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