June 25, 2009

Use Of Several Drugs Declining, Synthetic Drugs On The Rise

The international market for heroin, cocaine and marijuana is declining while demand for synthetic "party" drugs is on the rise, according to a new UN report.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime issued its findings on Wednesday. The report shows a 19 percent decrease in the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, which is the source of 93 percent of the world's opium.

Additionally, cocaine cultivation in Columbia fell 18 percent while production dropped 28 percent compared to 2007.

"Global coca production, at 845 tons, is at a five-year low, despite some increases in cultivation in Peru and the Bolivia," according to the report.

"The $50 billion global cocaine market is undergoing seismic shifts," said Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director. "Purity levels and seizures (in main consumer countries) are down, prices are up, and consumption patterns are in flux. This may help explain the gruesome upsurge of violence in countries like Mexico. In Central America, cartels are fighting for a shrinking market."

The report noted that cannabis is still the most widely used and cultivated drug in the world. What's more, UNODC researchers estimate that the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of hydroponic marijuana in North America has almost doubled in the past decade.

"This has major implications for health, as evidenced by a significant rise in the number of people seeking treatment," said the UNODC.

The report suggested that the use of synthetic drugs, including amphetamines, methamphetamine and ecstasy have declined in the past, but their popularity appears to be increasing.

"What was once a cottage industry has become big business. Industrial-sized laboratories in South East Asia - particularly in the Greater Mekong Sub-region - are producing massive quantities of methamphetamine tablets, and crystal meth and other substances like Ketamine," according to the UNODC.

The UNODC implicated Canada as a major trafficking hub for synthetic drugs including methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Additionally, it noted that use of the amphetamine Captagon dramatically increased in the Near and Middle East as Saudi Arabia seized one third of all amphetamine group substances in the world in 2007.

"International efforts are paying off," Costa said. "As long as demand for drugs persists, weak countries will always be targeted by traffickers. If Europe really wants to help Africa, it should curb its appetite for cocaine."


On the Net: