By Victoria Ojeme
A study on illegal drug use from the United Nations finds that the cocaine market is growing rapidly with devastating effects on the population and this supported by technological advances.
According to the study, the number of people using drugs is now 30 per cent higher than it was ten years ago.
The use of cocaine is also on the rise in both major markets of North America and Europe.
In fact, opioids, which include both heroin and legal pain relievers, were responsible for around two-thirds of drug-related deaths in 2017, according to the new data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Defying the widespread perception that young people today subscribe to healthier lifestyles than previous generations, the study shows that people between the ages of 18 and 25 are the biggest cocaine-consuming demographic.
The study from the UN Office also shows that the negative health consequences associated with drugs are more severe and widespread than previously thought, with around 35 million people suffering from drug use disorders and requiring treatment services.
Some 11 million people injected drugs in 2017, 1.4 million of whom are living with HIV, and 5.6 million with hepatitis C.
UNODC explained the significantly higher figures are due in part to improved research and more precise data, including more knowledge of the extent of drug use from new surveys conducted in India and Nigeria, two of the most populous countries in the world.
“The findings of this year’s World Drug Report fill in and further complicate the global picture of drug challenges, underscoring the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to supply and demand”, said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, in a statement.
Whilst the overall figure for drug use in 2017, an estimated 271 million people, was similar to the previous year, the trend is rising, and the number of people using drugs is now some 30 per cent higher than it was ten years ago.
This is partly attributed to a 10 per cent increase in the global population aged 15-64, but also increased opioid use in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, as well as higher cannabis consumption in North and South America, and Asia. Opiods are the class of illegal drugs derived from heroin – opium poppies – including synthetics such as fentanyl, and other prescription medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.
The manufacture of cocaine – chiefly from South America – reached an all-time high in 2017, with an estimated production of 2,000 tons in 2017, up by a quarter on the previous year. At the same time, seizures of cocaine rose 13 per cent to 1,275 tons, another record figure.
Synthetic opioid misuse, centred around Fentanyl and similar drugs, is an ongoing crisis in the US and Canada, with over 51,000 overdoses reported in 2017.
Countries in West, Central and North Africa are experiencing an opioid crisis surrounding another drug, Tramadol, which has flooded the market in recent years: seizures of Tramadol jumped from less than 10 kilograms in 2010 to around 125 tons in 2017.
A country-wide National Survey on Drug Use in Nigeria released in January showed that 14.3 million people, representing approximately 14.4 per cent of the country’s population (between age 15 and 64), abused drug substances in the past one year.