VIENNA: The global narcotics market is “thriving”, with production of cocaine and opium substances soaring and opioids wreaking havoc, the UN crime and drugs agency said Thursday in a gloomy annual assessment.
“As the report… clearly shows, there is much work to be done to confront the many harms inflicted by drugs, to health, development, peace and security, in all regions of the world,” UNODC head Yury Fedotov said.
Around 29.5 million people worldwide, or 0.6 percent of the adult population, suffered from drug use disorders in 2015, with at least 190,000 mostly avoidable deaths annually, mostly from opioids.
In 2016, global production of opium — extracted from poppy resin and refined to make heroin — rocketed by a third, mostly due to bumper harvests in Afghanistan, the report said, providing Taliban insurgents with millions of dollars.
Regarding cocaine, data on production, trafficking and use point to overall growth in the global market, the UNODC said. Quantities intercepted in Asia leaped 40 percent in 2015.
Following a long-term decline, cultivation of coca — the raw material for cocaine — shot up 30 percent over 2013-15, mainly due to Colombia, the world’s biggest producer.
But opioids, which include heroin, prescription painkillers like fentanyl and illegal counterfeits, remain by far the “most harmful” drugs in health terms, the UNODC said.
In the United States, gripped by an opioid epidemic, overdose deaths, most of them from opioids, more than tripled from 16,849 in 1999 to 52,404 in 2015, the report said.
In addition it said that the business models of organised crime gangs are models are constantly changing and that they using new technologies such as the “darknet” to sell drugs.