UNITED NATIONS — A new U.N. report on global drug use finds that an increasing share of the world population is using and abusing drugs, with 1 in 18 people considered regular drug users and 1 in 9 users suffering from “drug-use disorders.”
U.N. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak was straightforward in his assessment of this year’s report:
“Unfortunately, it does not contain much good news.”
The U.N. found global drug deaths have surged 60 percent since 2000. In the U.S., increases in drug deaths have been driven largely by the powerful opioid fentanyl, while in Africa and Asia another synthetic opioid, tramadol, is reeking havoc on countries with substandard health systems to begin with.
Making matters worse, powerful opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol are so concentrated — with trace amounts capable of triggering an overdose — that they pose difficulties for law enforcement efforts to track their production and intercept them before they hit the market. The continued movement of the global drug trade to the dark web and other encrypted channels also is causing problems for regulators.
According to data from the EU and Interpol, nearly two-thirds of listings on major dark web marketplaces are for pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs or chemicals used in drug production.
But just because new drugs are creating challenges for authorities, that doesn’t mean the traditional trade in more traditional drugs have been beaten back in recent years, Lajcak said:
“Another change is being seen in the numbers, because when it comes to cocaine and opium, it has never been higher. More people than ever are producing these drugs. More people than ever are supplying them. And more people than ever are using them.”
Despite recent shifts within various U.S. states and other countries to decriminalize drugs or wind down the global “war on drugs,” the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crimes condemns decriminalization as a policy tool and is led by Russian diplomat Yuri Fedotov, who has pushed countries to “bolster counter-narcotics” efforts.