No fewer than 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report released yesterday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The report, in a statement by UNODC, Nigeria, Outreach and Communications Officer, Sylvester Tunde Atere, also analysed the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the streets, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.
“Rising unemployment and reduced opportunities caused by the pandemic are also likely to disproportionately affect the poorest, making them more vulnerable to drug use and also to drug trafficking and cultivation in order to earn money,” the report said.
Also, UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, said: “Vulnerable and marginalised groups, youths, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem. 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.
“We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support to developing countries to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases.”
Besides, the report says that if governments react the same way as they did to the economic crisis in 2008 when they reduced drug-related budgets, prevention of drug use and related risk behaviours, drug treatment services, the provision of naloxone for management and reversal of opioid overdose could be hard hit.
Interception operations and international cooperation may also become less of a priority, making it easier for traffickers to operate.