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World Drug Report & International day against drug abuse


June 26 every year is observed as International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking or World Drug Day.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the World Drug Report 2021 recently.


GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues, Government Policies and Interventions), GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Organized Crime and Terrorism), GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
  2. Drug Abuse problem worsening due to Covid-19 Pandemic
  3. About United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  4. UNODC World Drug Report
  5. Highlights of The World Drug Report 2021
  6. India’s Vulnerability

International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

  • International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is observed every year on June 26 with an aim to spread awareness about the global drug problem and eliminate drug misuse.
  • Activists, therapists and organisations working in the field of preventing drug abuse come together on this day to help victims of this social evil.
  • ‘Share Drug Facts to Save Lives’ is the theme of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2021.
  • The focus of 2021 is to curb the spread of misinformation on the topic and to encourage the exchange of facts related to drugs.

Drug Abuse problem worsening due to Covid-19 Pandemic

  • The economic downturn caused by the global pandemic may drive more people to substance abuse or leave them vulnerable to involvement in drug trafficking and related crime.
  • In the global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, drug users sought out cheaper synthetic substances and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced budgets to deal with drug-related problems.
  • All over the world, the risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Worrying Data Regarding Drug Abuse prevalence

  • One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment.
  • People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.
  • Number of people using drugs in 2018 increased by 30% from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users.
  • While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, the data nevertheless indicate that illicit drugs are more diverse, more potent and more available.
  • At the same time, more than 80% of the world’s population, mostly living in low- and middle-income countries, are deprived of access to controlled drugs for pain relief and other essential medical uses.

About United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a United Nations office that was established in 1997 and has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • UNODC was established to assist the UN in better addressing a coordinated, comprehensive response to the interrelated issues of illicit trafficking in and abuse of drugs, crime prevention and criminal justice, international terrorism, and political corruption.
  • These goals are pursued through three primary functions: (i) Research, (ii) Guidance and (iii) Support to governments in the adoption and implementation of various crime-, drug-, terrorism-, and corruption-related conventions, treaties and protocols, as well as technical/financial assistance to said governments to face their respective situations and challenges in these fields.
  • The office aims long-term to better equip governments to handle drug-, crime-, terrorism-, and corruption-related issues, to maximise knowledge on these issues among governmental institutions and agencies, and also to maximise awareness of said matters in public opinion, globally, nationally and at community level.
  • Approximately 90% of the Office’s funding comes from voluntary contributions, mainly from governments.

UNODC World Drug Report

  • Every year, the UN body United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) publishes The World Drug Report with statistics and data on how to tackle the global drug crisis.
  • The World Drug Report is aimed at fostering greater international cooperation to counter the impact of the world drug problem on health, governance and security.
  • By drugs, the Report refers to substances controlled under international drug control conventions, and their non-medical use.
  • The Report, based on data and estimates collected or prepared by Governments, UNODC and other international institutions, attempts to identify trends in the evolution of global illicit drug markets.
  • It provides estimates and information on trends in the production, trafficking and use of opium/heroin, coca/cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants.

Highlights of The World Drug Report 2021

  • Between 2010-2019, the number of people using drugs increased by 22%, owing in part to an increase in the global population.
  • Around 275 million people used drugs worldwide last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders.
  • Opioids continue to account for the largest burden of disease attributed to drug use.
  • A rise in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs was also observed during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In the last 24 years, cannabis potency had increased as much as four times in some parts, even as the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40%.
  • Access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with online sales, and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some $315 million annually.
  • In Asia, China and India are mainly linked to shipment of drugs sold on the 19 major darknet markets analysed over 2011-2020.
  • Cannabis dominates drug transactions on Dark web and on clear web involves sale of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) and substances used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs.

Impact of Covid-19 on Drug use according to the report

  • The Covid-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost 255 million jobs in 2020.
  • Mental health conditions are also on the rise worldwide. Such socioeconomic stressors have likely accelerated demand for the drugs.
  • Drug traffickers have quickly recovered from initial setbacks caused by lockdown restrictions and are operating at pre-pandemic levels once again.
  • Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Vendors play a cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement by marketing their products as “research chemicals” or advertising “custom synthesis”.

Positive outcome of the pandemic on

  • A rise in the use of technology during the pandemic has also triggered innovation in drug prevention and treatment services, through more flexible models of service delivery such as telemedicine, enabling healthcare professionals to reach and treat more patients.
  • The pharmaceutical opioids used to treat people with opioid use disorders have become increasingly accessible, as science-based treatment has become more broadly available.

India’s Vulnerability

Golden crescent

  • The Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia’s two principal areas of illicit Opium production, located at the crossroads of central, south and western Asia.
  • This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent.

Golden triangle

  • The Golden Triangle is located in the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers.
  • Along with the Golden Crescent, it is regarded as one of the largest producers of opium in the world since the 1950s until it was overtaken by the Golden Crescent in the early 21st century.

-Source: Hindustan Times, Indian Express

December 2023