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The UNODC releases its report of the world drug situation, which show reductions in opium and coca production but with emerging use of psychoactive substances.
By Fay Watson, EURAD Secretary General
Throughout the world, illicit drug use appears to be relatively stable, though it continues to rise in some developing countries. Around 5% of the world's population have used an illicit drug at least once, with many fewer using them on a regular basis. However, across the world there are an estimated 27 million people classed as "problem drug users", according to the report, which is roughly 0.6% of the world's adult population.
Global opium production amounted to 7,000 tons in 2011, which is more than a fifth less than the peak of 2007 but an increase from 2010, when a plant disease destroyed almost half of the opium harvest in Afghanistan. The total area under coca bush cultivation in the world fell by 18% between 2007 and 2010 and by 33% since 2000.
However, efforts to reduce cultivation and production of the main plant-based problem drugs have been offset by rising levels of synthetic drug production, which are not under international control.
Whilst the figures above indicate the scale of the problem, member states should be reminded that they need to respond to these threats. If we are to confront these challenges, the UNODC point out that both supply and demand need to be reduced, an approach which EURAD also supports.
As the report goes on to say, this does not mean abondoning law enforcement activities; instead, the supply and demand sides need to better complement each other and this means balancing our efforts against drug trafficking with alternative development programmes for farmers and helping drug users to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
At present, only around one quarter of all farmers involved in illicit drug crop cultivation worldwide have access to development assistance and as Yury Fedetov, Executive Director of the UNODC, claims that if we are to offer new opportunities and genuine alternatives, this needs to change.
Finally, the key message from the report is that we need to move as one, calling on member states to take complementary, rather than conflicting actions to reduce the world drug problem.
The full World Drug Report 2012 is available to download here.
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