The UN’s office on Drugs and Crime has produced its annual report, revealing some sobering trends that will provide food for thought for policymakers.
Gobal opium production fell by 38 percent last year as plant disease hit top producer Afghanistan, but land under poppy cultivation in number two producer Myanmar soared.
While governments spend fortunes on law enforcement, if saving lives is the priority the report says they are going the wrong way about it.
“The fundamental way to deal with the problem of drug-related deaths is to offer to all drug users treatment for their condition because they are people who suffer from a disease,” says the UNODC’s Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs Sandeep Chawla.
State-controlled supply programmes of uncontaminated drugs for addicts and substitution treatments remain the exception rather than the rule, and a rise in cocaine use in Europe and South America is a big worry.
“Well, I think it’s a much greater use of cocaine among teenage kids, it’s no longer the drug of middle class dinner parties. It’s now a cheaper substitute than ecstasy was in the 80s and 90s and there’s a much greater availability, particularly in Spain, the UK, and Italy which I think are the countries that use it the most in Europe,” says the Home Affairs Editor of British newspaper The Guardian.
Africa has seen an explosion in heroin use, and more synthetic so-called designer drugs are appearing. Prescription drug abuse is also on the increase, as is the fortune raked in by criminals and terrorists from the drugs trade.