Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more people using drugs all over the world, a UN report said Thursday.

“The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.

According to the latest World Drug Report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, up 30 percent from 2009, and over 35 million people suffered from drug use disorders.

The report said cannabis was the most used substance in 2018, with an estimated 192 million users worldwide. Opioids, however, remained the most harmful, as the number of deaths due to related disorders went up 71 percent over the past decade.

Border controls and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity, said the report.

The pandemic has also caused opioid shortages, which in turn may result in people seeking out more readily available substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or mixing with synthetic drugs, it said.

The report emphasized that rising unemployment and reduced opportunities caused by the pandemic are likely to have a greater impact on the poorest, making them more vulnerable to drug use, drug trafficking and cultivation in order to earn money.

Looking at further effects of the current pandemic, the report said if governments react the same way as they did to the economic crisis in 2008, when they reduced drug-related budgets, then interventions such as prevention of drug use, related risk behaviours and drug treatment services could be hard hit.

“We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases, so we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, promote justice and leave no one behind,” said Waly.

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