World Drug Report 2017 – A quarter of a billion people worldwide use drugs

World Drug Report 2017

According to the latest World Drug Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), launched today, nearly a quarter of a billion people used drugs and 30 million suffered from drug use disorders in 2015. The global drug market is not the only one escalating: there are no signs of slowdown in the production and consumption of cocaine, opioids and New Psychoactive Substances. The impact on public health is tremendous with more than 6.1 million people suffering from hepatitis C, causing the greatest harm among the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs worldwide.

Cocaine production on the rise

Coca bush cultivation and cocaine production have been increasing over the last two years. Whilst there had been a downward trend for more than a decade (2000-2013), a rise of 18% of coca cultivation was recorded between 2014 and 2015 to reach a global cultivation area of 156.500 hectares in 2015. Repercussions are stark with more than 1100 tonnes of pure cocaine produced in 2015, of which 800 tonnes were seized. This is nearly 20% more than in 2014. The bulk of this manufactured cocaine comes from South America, notably Colombia whose coca production has been growing, and goes to consumer markets in Europe and North America. In total, 17 million of people consumed cocaine in 2015.

Opioids, ATS, NPS: an expansive market

Recent attention has focused on the trade and use of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) which have nearly doubled between 2012 and 2015. The report states that although the NPS market is developing relatively slowly, synthetic drugs have had a very perverse effect in the population, particularly amongst youngsters who are unaware of the dosage and risks that the use of such drugs entails. Internet has in that matter played a crucial role thanks to the use of anonymous and encrypted platforms which feed cybercrime.

A special focus has also been given to the production of opioids, now considered as the most harmful drug type as it accounted for 70% of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders worldwide in 2015. Opioid trafficking is all the more dangerous as it is becoming more and more diversified and its cultivation remains vast with approximately 300 000 ha cultivated in 2016, that is to say more than 425 000 times the size of a football stadium.

The drug-crime-terrorism nexus

Drugs and crime are now viewed as intertwined, although not systematically, with terrorist networks. The report stresses out the linkages between the proceeds of criminal and terrorist activities, such as the Taliban’s’ reliance on drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, up to 85% of opium cultivation in the country taking place in territory under the group’s influence. The drug-crime-terrorism nexus has reinforced instability in many regions of the world and durably undermines development, peace and human rights.