UN says drug use shifting towards new drugs, markets


17:23, June 25, 2010      

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Along the northern route, the countries of Central Asia are only seizing a meagre five per cent of the 90 tons of heroin that cross their territory heading towards Russia.

In turn Russia, that consumes 20 per cent of the Afghan heroin output, seizes only four per cent of this flow.

The figures are even worse along the Balkan route: some countries of South-Eastern Europe, including EU member states, are intercepting less than two per cent of the heroin crossing their territory.

The report shows that cocaine consumption has fallen significantly in the United States in the past few years. "One reason for the drug-related violence in Mexico is that cartels are fighting over a shrinking market," said Costa. "This in-fight is a blessing for America, as the resulting cocaine drought is causing lower addiction rates, higher prices and lesser purity of doses."

To an extent the problem has moved across the Atlantic, it says, noting that in the last decade the number of cocaine users in Europe doubled, from 2 million in 1998 to 4.1 million in 2008.

By 2008, the European market (34 billion dollars) was almost as valuable as the North American market (37 billion dollars).

Costa called for more development to reduce vulnerability to crime, and increased law enforcement cooperation to deal with drug trafficking.

"Unless we deal effectively with the threat posed by organized crime, our societies will be held hostage – and drug control will be jeopardized, by renewed calls to dump the UN drug conventions that critics say are the cause of crime and instability. This would undo the progress that has been made in drug control over the past decade, and unleash a public health disaster," he warned.

"Yet, unless drug prevention and treatment are taken more seriously, public opinion's support to the UN drug conventions will wane."

The shift in demand has led to a shift in trafficking routes, with an increasing amount of cocaine flowing to Europe from the Andean countries via West Africa. This is causing regional instability in West Africa.

"We will not solve the world drugs problem if we simply push addiction from cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances – and there are unlimited amounts of them, produced in mafia labs at trivial costs," warned Costa.

The number of ATS-related clandestine laboratories reported increased by 20 per cent in 2008, including in countries where such labs had never been detected in the past.

The report says cannabis remains the world's most widely produced and used illicit substance: it is grown in almost all countries of the world, and is smoked by 130-190 million people at least once a year.

UNODC found evidence of indoor cultivation of cannabis for commercial purposes in 29 countries, particularly in Europe, Australia and North America.

Indoor growing is a lucrative business and is increasingly a source of profit for criminal groups. Based on evidence gathered in 2009, Afghanistan is now the world's leading producer of cannabis resin (as well as opium).

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