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UN report: Opioid crisis, prescription drug abuse expands; cocaine and opium hit record highs
June 26, 2018, 4:20 pm
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The non-medical use of prescription drugs is becoming a major threat to public health and law enforcement worldwide e, a UN report revealed Tuesday. Opioids are causing the most harm and accounting for 76 percent of deaths where drug use disorders were implicated, the latest World Drug Report, released today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today.

According to the report, fentanyl and its analogues remain a problem in North America, while tramadol - an opioid used to treat moderate and moderate-to-severe pain - has become a growing concern in parts of Africa and Asia.

It said that accessibility of fentanyl and tramadol for medical use is vital for treating pain, but traffickers manufacture them illicitly and promote them in illegal markets causing considerable harm to health.

The global seizure of pharmaceutical opioids in 2016 was 87 tons, roughly the same as the quantities of heroin seized that year, the report added.

Global cocaine manufacture in 2016 reached the highest level ever reported, with an estimated 1,410 tons being produced. Most of the world's cocaine comes from Colombia. From 2016-2017, global opium production jumped by 65 percent to 10,500 tons, the highest estimate recorded by UNODC since it started monitoring global opium production at the start of the twenty-first century. A marked increase in opium poppy cultivation and gradually improving yields in Afghanistan resulted in opium production there last year reaching 9,000 tons. "The findings of this year's World Drug Report show that drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production hitting absolute record highs, presenting multiple challenges on multiple fronts," said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Fedotov highlighted that "UNODC is committed to working with countries to seek balanced, integrated solutions to drug challenges and achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals." "The World Drug Report represents a key pillar of our support, along with assistance to translate international obligations into action and capacity building on the ground to enable effective responses, and protect the health and welfare of humankind," he said.

Cannabis was the most widely consumed drug in 2016, with 192 million people using it at least once during the previous year. The global number of cannabis users continues to rise and appears to have increased by roughly 16 percent in the decade to 2016, reflecting a similar increase in the world population.

The number of people worldwide using drugs at least once a year remained stable in 2016 with around 275 million people, or roughly 5.6 percent of the global population aged 15-64 years, the report stated.

Looking at vulnerabilities of various age groups, the Report finds that drug use and the associated harm are the highest among young people compared to older people.

Most research suggests that early (12-14 years) to late (15-17 years) adolescence is a critical risk period for the initiation of substance use and may peak among young people (aged 18-25 years). 

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