The United Nations (UN) has raised alarm over the increasing abuse of drugs globally as well as the rising number of people suffering from drug use disorder.
“Globally, some 35 million people, up from an earlier estimate of 30.5 million, suffer from drug abuse disorders and require treatment services,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a global report released on Wednesday to mark the 2019 International Day of Drug abuse.
“The death toll is also higher: 585,000 people died as a result of drug use in 2017.”
The report said synthetic opioid use is booming globally. “271 million people or 5.5 percent of the global population aged between 15 and 64 have used drugs in the previous year,” it said.
Executive Director of UNDOC, Yury Fedotov, said the findings of this year’s World Drug Report fill in and further complicate the global picture of drug challenges, underscoring the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to drug supply and demand.
” With improved research and more precise data from India and Nigeria – both among the 10 most-populous countries in the world – we see that there are many more opioid users and people with drug use disorders than previously estimated,” he said.
But Fedetov lamented that prevention and treatment continue to fall far short of needs in many parts of the world.
This, he said is particularly true in prisons, where those incarcerated are especially vulnerable to drug use and face higher risks of HIV and hepatitis C transmission.
“This gap represents a major impediment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling the international community’s pledge to leave no one behind,” he said.
“Synthetic opioids continue to pose a serious threat to health, with overdose deaths rising in North America and trafficking in fentanyl and its analogues expanding in Europe and elsewhere.”
The UN Chief further stated that the opioid crisis that has featured in far fewer headlines but what requires equally urgent international attention is the non-medical use of the painkiller tramadol, particularly in Africa.
He indicated that the amount of tramadol seized globally reached a record 125 tons in 2017 noting that the limited data available indicate that the tramadol being used for non-medical purposes in Africa is being illicitly manufactured in South Asia and trafficked to the region, as well as to parts of the Middle East.
“The response to the misuse of tramadol illustrates the difficulties faced by countries in balancing necessary access for medical purposes while curbing abuse – with limited resources and health-care systems that are already struggling to cope – and at the same time clamping down on organized crime and trafficking.”
Opium production and cocaine manufacture, according to the report, remain at record levels.
The amounts intercepted are also higher than ever, with the amount of cocaine seized up 74 percent over the past decade, compared with a 50 percent rise in manufacture during the same period. This suggests that law enforcement efforts have become more effective and that strengthened international cooperation may be helping to increase interception rates.
Meanwhile, an estimated 10.6 million Nigerians had used cannabis in the previous year as disclosed in a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics with the technical support of UNODC funded by the European Union.