On 23 June 2010, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued the World Drug Report 2010.
Below you can read UNODC’s release, commented by ENCOD’s Steering Committee members.
VIENNA, 23 June (UN Information Service) – The /World Drug Report
2010/, issued today at the National Press Club in Washington, shows that
drug use is shifting towards new drugs and new markets. Drug
cultivation is declining in Afghanistan (for opium) and the Andean
countries (coca), and drug use has stabilized in the developed
world. However, there are signs of an increase in drug use in
developing countries, and growing abuse of amphetamine-type
stimulants (ATS) and prescription drugs around the world.
Cultivation of opium and cocaine down
The Report shows that the world’s supply of the two main problem
drugs – opiates and cocaine – keeps declining. The global area
under opium cultivation has dropped by almost a quarter (23 per
cent) in the past two years, and opium production looks set to
fall steeply in 2010 due to a blight that could wipe out a quarter
of Afghanistan’s poppy crop. Coca cultivation, down by 28 per cent
in the past decade, has kept declining in 2009. World cocaine
production has declined by 12-18 per cent over the 2007-2009 period.
Heroin: production declining, interdictions low
Global potential heroin production fell by 13 per cent to 657 tons
in 2009, reflecting lower opium production in both Afghanistan and
Myanmar. The actual amount of heroin reaching the market is much
lower (around 430 tons) since significant amounts of opium are
being stockpiled. UNODC estimates that there are currently more
than 12,000 tons of Afghan opium or, around two and a half years
of global illicit opiate demand, being stock-piled.
The global heroin market, estimated at US$55 billion, is
concentrated in Afghanistan (which accounts for 90 per cent of
supply), Russia, Iran and Western Europe which together consume
half the heroin produced in the world.
Although Afghanistan produces most of the world’s opiates, it
seizes less than two per cent of them. Iran and Turkey are scoring
the highest, responsible for over half of all heroin seized
globally in 2008. Interdiction rates elsewhere are much lower.
Along the northern route, the countries of Central Asia are only
seizing a meagre five per cent of the 90 tons of heroin that cross
their territory heading towards Russia. In turn Russia, that
consumes 20 per cent of the Afghan heroin output, seizes only four
per cent of this flow. The figures are even worse along the Balkan
route: some countries of South-Eastern Europe, including EU member
states, are intercepting less than two per cent of the heroin
crossing their territory.
Cocaine market is shifting
The World Drug Report 2010 shows that cocaine consumption has
fallen significantly in the United States in the past few years.
The retail value of the US cocaine market has declined by about
two thirds in the 1990s, and by about one quarter in the past
decade. “One reason for the drug-related violence in Mexico is
that cartels are fighting over a shrinking market,” said UNODC
Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. “This in-fight is a
blessing for America, as the resulting cocaine drought is causing
lower addiction rates, higher prices and lesser purity of doses.”
Comment: So Mr. Costa thinks the killings in Mexico are in fact good news for the Americans. How cynical can you become?
To an extent the problem has moved across the Atlantic: in the
last decade the number of cocaine users in Europe doubled, from 2
million in 1998 to 4.1 million in 2008. By 2008, the European
market (US$34 billion) was almost as valuable as the North
American market (US$37 billion). The shift in demand has led to a
shift in trafficking routes, with an increasing amount of cocaine
flowing to Europe from the Andean countries via West Africa. This
is causing regional instability. “People snorting coke in Europe
are killing the pristine forests of the Andean countries and
corrupting governments in West Africa,” said Mr. Costa.
Comment: If cocaine would be legal, production could be rationalised and corruption would diminish. In that case cocaine consumers would support socio-economic development. Nothing wrong with that
Use of synthetic drugs exceeds opiates and cocaine combined
The global number of people using amphetamine-type stimulants
(ATS) – estimated at around 30-40 million – is soon likely to
exceed the number of opiate and cocaine users combined. There is
also evidence of increasing abuse of prescription drugs. “We will
not solve the world drugs problem if we simply push addiction from
cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances – and there are
unlimited amounts of them, produced in mafia labs at trivial
costs,” warned Mr. Costa.
The ATS market is harder to track because of short trafficking
routes (manufacturing usually takes place close to main consumer
markets), and the fact that many of the raw materials are both
legal and readily available. Manufacturers are quick to market new
products (like ketamine, piperazines, Mephedrone and Spice) and
exploit new markets. “These new drugs cause a double problem.
First, they are being developed at a much faster rate than
regulatory norms and law enforcement can keep up. Second, their
marketing is cunningly clever, as they are custom-manufactured so
as to meet the specific preference in each situation,” said Mr. Costa.
The number of ATS-related clandestine laboratories reported
increased by 20 per cent in 2008, including in countries where
such labs had never been detected in the past.
Manufacture of ‘ecstasy’ has increased in North America (notably
in Canada) and in several parts of Asia, and use seems to be
increasing in Asia. In another demonstration of the fluidity of
drug markets, ecstasy use in Europe has plummeted since 2006.
Comment: This is just another good example of the failure of the current global control system based on prohibition, crop erradication and repressive law enforcement in border and transition countries.
Cannabis still the world’s drug of choice
Cannabis remains the world’s most widely produced and used illicit
substance: it is grown in almost all countries of the world, and
is smoked by 130-190 million people at least once a year – though
these parameters are not very telling in terms of addiction. The
fact that cannabis use is declining in some of its highest value
markets, namely North America and parts of Europe, is another
indication of shifting patterns of drug abuse.
UNODC found evidence of indoor cultivation of cannabis for
commercial purposes in 29 countries, particularly in Europe,
Australia and North America. Indoor growing is a lucrative
business and is increasingly a source of profit for criminal
groups. Based on evidence gathered in 2009, Afghanistan is now the
world’s leading producer of cannabis resin (as well as opium).
Insufficient drug treatment
The World Drug Report 2010 exposes a serious lack of drug
treatment facilities around the world. “While rich people in rich
countries can afford treatment, poor people and/or poor countries
are facing the greatest health consequences,” warned the head of
UNODC. The Report estimates that, in 2008, only around a fifth of
problem drug users worldwide had received treatment in the past
year, which means around 20 million drug dependent people did not
receive treatment. “It is time for universal access to drug
treatment,” said Mr. Costa.
He called for health to be the centrepiece of drug control. “Drug
addiction is a treatable health condition, not a life sentence.
Drug addicts should be sent to treatment, not to jail. And drug
treatment should be part of mainstream healthcare.”
Comment: We agree! Treatment should be available. However people should not be “sent to” treatment, because that implies that the treatment is not voluntary. People should never be “sent to treatment” against their wiil, except in very few exceptional cases, never as a routine approach.
In the existing prohibitionist system, the idea that treatment
should be applied against the will of the problematic user arises
eventually because too many people use drugs regardless of the
law, and a certain percentage of those people get into trouble
with the law. In a well regulated system, that percentage will be
much lower, and obligatory treatment will only need consideration
in very few cases, in which other aspects dominate the problem.
However, spending most efforts on law enforcement, criminal justice and drug war (all supported and stimulated by the UNODC) how does Mr. Costa wants countries to invest more on treatment, prevention and harm reduction?
He also called for greater respect for human rights. “Just
because people take drugs, or are behind bars, this doesn’t
abolish their rights. I appeal to countries where people are
executed for drug-related offences or, worse, are gunned down by
extra-judicial hit squads, to end this practice.”
Comment: Mr. Costa fails to acknowledge that it was the drug war approach, heavily promoted for years by both UNODC and its strongest supporters, like the US government, that very likely has encouraged those countries to extend this kind of penalties to drug traffickers and users.
Warning signs in the developing world
Mr. Costa highlighted the dangers of drug use in the developing
world. “Market forces have already shaped the asymmetric
dimensions of the drug economy; the world’s biggest consumers of
the poison (the rich countries) have imposed upon the poor (the
main locations of supply and trafficking) the greatest damage,”
said Mr. Costa. “Poor countries are not in a position to absorb
the consequences of increased drug use. The developing world faces
a looming crisis that would enslave millions to the misery of drug
He cited the boom in heroin consumption in Eastern Africa, the
rise of cocaine use in West Africa and South America, and the
surge in the production and abuse of synthetic drugs in the Middle
East and South East Asia. “We will not solve the world drugs
problem by shifting consumption from the developed to the
developing world,” said Mr. Costa.
Drug trafficking and instability
The World Drug Report 2010 contains a chapter on the
destabilizing influence of drug trafficking on transit countries,
focusing in particular on the case of cocaine. It shows how
under-development and weak governance attract crime, while crime
deepens instability. It shows how the wealth, violence and power
of drug trafficking can undermine the security, even the
sovereignty, of states. The threat to security posed by drug
trafficking has been on the agenda of the United Nations Security
Council several times during the past year.
While drug-related violence in Mexico receives considerable
attention, the Northern Triangle of Central America, consisting of
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is even more badly affected,
with murder rates much higher than in Mexico. The Report says that
Venezuela has emerged as a major departure point for cocaine
trafficked to Europe: between 2006 and 2008, over half of all
detected maritime shipments of cocaine to Europe came from Venezuela.
The Report highlights the unstable situation in West Africa which
has become a hub for cocaine trafficking. It notes that
“traffickers have been able to co-opt top figures in some
authoritarian societies”, citing the recent case of Guinea-Bissau.
Mr. Costa called for more development to reduce vulnerability to
crime, and increased law enforcement cooperation to deal with drug
trafficking. “Unless we deal effectively with the threat posed by
organized crime, our societies will be held hostage – and drug
control will be jeopardized, by renewed calls to dump the UN drug
conventions that critics say are the cause of crime and
instability. This would undo the progress that has been made in
drug control over the past decade, and unleash a public health
disaster,” he warned. “Yet, unless drug prevention and treatment
are taken more seriously, public opinion’s support to the UN drug
conventions will wane.”
Comment: In the June ENCOD Bulletin some arguments were raised to show that the current system is largely responsable for underdevlopment and rug health problems in developing countries. The current drug control system has produced huge collateral damage (called “unintended consequences” by Mr. Costa). There are alternatives that could improve the health situation and diminish drug trafficking related violence. Let’s show the hypocrisy of the UNODC position, which on one hand hand promotes the increase of the drug war expenses and on the other is calling for a healthier approach. In our view those two cannot fairly co-exist. To apply a truely public health approach, a new regulatory system has to be put in place, respecting the needs and rights of drug consumers, and finding solutions for people who produce and distribute drugs.Republish