The World Drug Report of 2013 Analysis

Last week, on the 26th of June, the annual world drug report was released aiming to show what progression has been made over the past year in regards to the drug war and prohibition.

We must however, be sceptical over the figures that are being used due to them being but estimations; as well as many being compiled from a large amount of different countries that may use different methodologies to compile the given figures.

The report has put forward a number of different ideas; the one that has been given the most attention explains that there are now more new psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as legal highs, than there are traditional illicit drugs.

By mid-2012, the number of different NPS that were identified was 251. A rise since 2009, when there were 166. The number of illicit substances controlled is 234. There are now more NPS and prescription drugs being abused than there is illicit drug abuse. This has raised new challenges in prohibition, as when one has been made illegal; a new one is created.

The ever growing emerging market of new psychoactive substances and has had a strong increase in the use of these NPS in the past decade. 31 countries in Europe reported NPS being prevalent.

Although there were a number of declining trends of drug use between the years of 2009 and 2011, since 2008 there has been an overall increase of 18% in the estimated number of people whom have used illicit drugs in the previous year.

According to the report, cannabis use has increased globally once again. However, the report suggests that cannabis use in declining in North America and in a number of countries in central and west Europe. The cultivation of cannabis has become more localized due to such phenomena as in-house growing kits, which makes it harder to know the true level of cannabis use.

Since 2009, opioid use has had an increase most particularly in Asia and a number of people believe that opioid use is also increasing in Africa; however there is no evidence to support this claim. North America, Oceania, middle east/south-west Asia and eastern and south-eastern Europe too are all above the ‘global average’. Mr Ivanov, a Russian representative attacked opium figures for its failure to mention illicit afghan opium production in Eurasia, and the problems it is creating.

The report explains that cocaine use is declining in western/central Europe, from 1.3% in 2010, to 1.2% in 2011, and in the North America from 1.6% to 1.5%. However cocaine use increased in Brazil in particular.

The use of ecstasy/MDMA has been declining overall, but has increased in Europe. The report shows that the three regions that there is a high prevalence of use is North America, Europe and Oceania.

There is very little data on the illicit use of prescription pills, but 103 countries did give some information on the issue. Almost 60% of the 103 countries believed them to be amongst the top three misused types of substances, and 15% said they were the most common. There has also been an increase in prescription opioid being reported from a large amount of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The report estimates that 14.0 million (Range: 11.2 – 22.0 million) people are injection drug users worldwide. Of this, 1.6 million (range: 1.2 to 3.9 million) have HIV. It is also estimated that 51% of injection drug users are living with hepatitis C. globally, the report estimates that mortality rate of drug related deaths is from 22.3 to 54.0, per 1000 people aged between 15 to 64.
It has also been reported that drugs are, instead of competing with each other for sales, they are in fact complimenting each other. This is particularly apparent for cocaine and amphetamine type substances. Where one is being sold successfully, the other too is being sold just as successfully.

In relation to trafficking routes, Africa is becoming more and more vulnerable. Cocaine is being pushed from South America to West Africa increasingly, as well as opium/heroin moving through east Africa.

There is also evidence of methamphetamine being produced in the continent; two laboratories were dismantled in Nigeria between 2011 and 2012. This indicates that not only is Africa being used as a trafficking hub; it is also becoming a producer of illicit drugs.

There are two ways in which we are able to conclude. We can conclude by saying that illicit drug use situation is declining, or stabilizing, but there are a number of concerns with prescription drug use and new psychoactive substances.

However we can also conclude that although some illicit substance use may look like it is declining, we cannot be sure of this as the figures that have been given are but guesstimates, and with the increasing amount of NPSs that are available, it is just as easy to argue that there are now more people using particular drugs than ever before.