The WDR shows, amongst other things, that Afghan heroin levels are high again.
The production of opium in Afghanistan has returned to levels comparable to 2009. After a malicious disease lowered the yield of Afghanistan’s opium poppy in ’10 & ’11, production has returned to its previous high rates. This shows the resilience of Afghan opium production, and how ineffective or down-right redundant any eradication measures have been.
Not only has this blip in the country’s heroin production left farmers without a crop to sell, there are other consequences. Due to the poor harvest of opium, less heroin was produced from Afghanistan, meaning less arrived in its most demanding markets. The Russian Federation was worst hit, with addicts seeking cheap alternatives to feed their habit. The use of Krokodil, or desomorphine, a derivative of codeine, became wide-spread, and not only continued to exacerbate the usual health problems of injecting drug use (HIV, hepatitis, etc), but also created new ones: user’s skin would become infected at the point of injection, requiring amputation.
The report notes that drug use is increasing in many developing countries. As middle classes, youth popularization and urbanization appear in developing countries, they bring disposable income and more free time. In parallel to this, the UNODC anticipates that such countries will be unable to deal with this new phenomenon, due to a lack of facilities and generally being underequipped. It should be noted that this pattern does not occur universally. In the Nordic countries, and similarly Japan, citizens have a high amount of disposable income, but drug use is relatively low in both areas. Also, disposable income in Afghanistan is exceptionally low, and yet drug use is very high. It is not solely socioeconomic factors that affect drug use.
The report also claims that these developing countries are likely to see higher levels of female drug use, due to sociocultural changes and increasing gender equality. It is unclear what specific ‘sociocultural changes’ are to be considered, but this is not what should be emphasised. In developed countries it is still men who are the main lifetime, regular and problem drug users. What should be done is work on removing the stigma of being a female drug user, so as to make treatment a more attractive and viable option for females. The need for this is particularly evident in Afghanistan, where only 4% of women and their partners have access to treatment.
In fact, females are underrepresented in treatment programmes in general. To be represented equally in treatment, the ratio of males to females in treatment should be similar to the ratio of males to females who suffer from problem drug use. Unfortunately in most countries in Europe, this is not the case, as the ratio of males to females in treatment for cannabis, cocaine or amphetamine was 4:1, which is higher than the ratio of male to female problem drug users.
This latest report continues the tradition of showing how the United Nations is failing its mission; that is, to protect people from the harms of drugs.