global Opioid crisis

Opioids Seized Worldwide, according to the United Nations' 2019 World Drug Report UNODC
The United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) annual drug anthology, published today, reports that drug use and dependency is rising around the world. Cannabis continues to be the most widely used drug worldwide.

"Globally, some 35 million people, up from an earlier estimate of 30.5 million, suffer from drug use disorders and require treatment services. The death toll is also higher: 585,000 people died as a result of drug use in 2017. Prevention and treatment continue to fall far short of needs in many parts of the world. This is particularly true in prisons, where those incarcerated are especially vulnerable to drug use and face higher risks of HIV and hepatitis C transmission," states the report.

According Yury Fedotov, Executive Director United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "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 opioid crisis that has featured in far fewer headlines but that requires equally urgent international attention is the non-medical use of the painkiller tramadol, particularly in Africa. The amount of tramadol seized globally reached a record 125 tons in 2017; 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 remain at record levels. The amounts intercepted are also higher than ever, with the amount of cocaine seized up 74 per cent over the past decade, compared with a 50 per cent 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."

Cocaine in Columbia

"Efforts by Colombia to reduce cocaine production following the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are a case in point. Alternative development initiatives have enabled farmers in central areas of the country previously under FARC control to abandon coca bush cultivation and join the licit economy. The result has been a drastic reduction in cocaine production. However, in other areas previously controlled by FARC, criminal groups have moved in to fill the vacuum and expand cultivation, writes Fedotov. "Alternative development can succeed, but not without sustained attention and integration into broader development goals," he added.

Drugs Seized Worldwide 2017

Drugs Seized Worldwide, according to the UN's 2019 World Drug Report
UNODC estimates that according to data reported by 74 participating member states, roughly 3.8 per cent of the global population aged 15-64 years used cannabis at least once in 2017, the equivalent of some 188 million people. The average global prevalence of cannabis use increased increased by roughly 30 per cent during the period 1998-2017.

While the report states that cannabis use is rapidly rising in North America, this synopsis is potentially flawed. The report's analysis may not take into account that in legalized cannabis markets, numerous people who are currently counted as cannabis users, may not have been counted accurately in previous years if they previously purchased cannabis from illicit markets. By entering into the legal system of purchasing cannabis, these consumers are now more readily available to be tabulated. Subsequently, the uptick in users are some of the same users who have been consuming cannabis all along. Therefore, the increase between new users and consistent users may not be as high as the report analyzes.

In the past two decades, there have been rapid advances in cannabis plant cultivation techniques. This has led to the spread of domestic (indoor) cultivation, thereby reducing reliance on imported cannabis products. Based on the cultivation of un-pollinated female cannabis plants (sinsemilla), indoor cannabis plant production involves the use of controlled growing conditions and genetically selected strains, which has led to an increase in the number of harvests, as well as in yield and potency. Mainly focused on achieving high THC content, selective breeding has also resulted in the selection of varieties containing lower levels of CBD.4 In addition to the major transformation of cannabis cultivation in recent years, the cannabis market has diversified to the extent that it now comprises a broad range of products with varying means of ingestion, potency and effects.

The report also states that:

- Quantities of cannabis herb seized continue to decline markedly in North America following major transformation of the cannabis market.

- Global upward trend in cannabis resin seizures came to a halt in 2017, mainly as a result of a decline in seizures in production regions.

- Global prevalence of cannabis use has remained stable in recent years, despite an increase in the number of cannabis users.

- Young people who do not attend college seem to be more vulnerable to frequent cannabis use than high school graduates who attend college.