Never before has such a large amount of cocaine been produced as today. Almost 2,000 tons of the illicit drug are in rotation every year, as the World Drug Report, recently published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), states.
Never before has such a large amount of cocaine been produced as today. Almost 2,000 tons of the illicit drug are in rotation every year, as the World Drug Report, recently published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), states. The report, which is based on data from 2017, analyses the global development of the drug economy. The figures underline the urgent need for international drug policy to engage in an open debate to resolve the multitude of recent challenges – only a common and holistic drug policy can be able to contain the global problem.
The tendency is clear: Both the supply for and the demand on almost every type of illegal drug is increasing. Nowadays, 217 million people consume drugs, which is 30 percent more than ten years ago. The UNODC pointed out, that this increase goes along with the population growth, but is nevertheless a serious issue. Very drastically has grown the use of opioids, which are responsible for two thirds of all drugs deaths worldwide. The number of people who use opioids has more than doubled to 50 million. In the USA alone, 70,000 people died because of an overdose in 2017.
The situation is becoming more complicated and calls for further engagement, states Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC. “There is the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to supply and demand."
The use of drugs is accompanied by health risks. For example, unclean syringes are the main cause for the transmission of life-challenging diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C. A large proportion of the new infections affects people who inject drugs. Measures of harm reduction as rooms of drug consumption with clean equipment can reduce the risk of infection and foster public health. These measures should be preceded by the decriminalization of people who use illicit drugs. This concept, which has proven its worth in Portugal, is attracting more and more attention, but still finds hardly legal implementation in other countries.
The drug report also sheds light on the fragile situation in prisons. There, the prevention and treatment in relation with drugs falls short in the majority of countries. The spreading of HIV, Hepatitis C and tuberculosis among prison inmates is high above average – especially among the prisoners who inject drugs.
The World Drug Report 2019 concludes, inter alia, that effective treatment measures based on scientific evidence and in line with international human rights obligations need to be significantly strengthened. Global drug policy must change direction - towards an evidence-based, holistic, human-centered policy.
The UN drug report is freely available here.