UN Report: Marijuana most popular illicit substance in region
– strong concerns over increasing abuse of synthetic drugs
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has expressed strong concern about a surge of so-called “synthetic” drugs from Southeast Asia, in its 2011 report.
The report also said that cannabis remains the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance globally.
With the cocaine market in decline, Peru is now on a par with Colombia as the world’s top coca producer.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the World Drug Report 2011 painted a “sobering picture of the threat posed by illegal drugs,” with 200,000 people dying each year from illegal drug use which remains a major financier of terrorism.
In South, Central America and the Caribbean, South America continues to be primarily a sub-region known for large-scale cocaine production and trafficking, though drug use, notably in the Southern Cone countries, has also become significant.
Notable illicit drug production continues to take place in the three Andean countries. Colombia, Peru and the Pluri-national State of Bolivia are responsible for close to 100% of global coca leaf production, the raw material for the manufacture of cocaine. In 2010, coca was cultivated
on 149,130 ha in the Andean countries.
The total area under cultivation in 2010 is based on old figures for Bolivia and will be revised once from 221,300 ha in 2000. Cocaine manufacture in clandestine laboratories also takes place, to a large extent, in the Andean countries. Since 2007, cocaine production has shown a clear downward trend, mainly due to declines of production in Colombia, which also continued in 2010. Cocaine production fell by one-sixth over the 2007-2010 period.
Most of the countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean have significant levels of cannabis production, notably of cannabis herb. In 2009, 70% of global cannabis plant seizures, an indirect indicator of cannabis eradication, occurred in this sub-region. Three quarters of these seizures took place in South America.
Trafficking flows are primarily directed out of the cocaine-producing countries in the Andean region towards North America, either directly to Mexico and then the United States, or via Central America to Mexico or via the Caribbean to the United States.
Trafficking flows to Europe are either directly from the Andean region or via neighboring countries to Europe, via countries in the Caribbean region as well as via countries in Africa (notably West Africa) to Europe.
Cannabis trafficking flows are mainly intra-regional. In addition, there are limited trafficking flows of heroin from Colombia to the United States.
In contrast, trafficking flows of amphetamines and ecstasy are still mainly from Europe towards South America, though these appear to be declining as they start to be substituted by local production.
The largest seizures, in volume terms, are those of coca leaf in South America, which accounts for all global coca leaf seizures. Such seizures declined, however, over the 2007-2009 period by some 25%, partly reflecting a decline in coca leaf production. In contrast, cocaine seizures, for which the countries of South America, Central America and the Caribbean accounted for 74% of
the world total, showed an increase by 27% over the 2007-2009 period. Increasing interdiction efforts by the Andean countries (notably Colombia) as well as improvements in international cooperation – and thus more ‘upstream’ interdictions – have been responsible for this.
Seizures of opium and heroin declined markedly between 2005 and 2009.
The decline is in line with reports of strong reductions of opium production in South America over the last decade.
Surveys suggest that about 5% of all cannabis users worldwide are found in South America, the Caribbean and Central America, slightly less than the region’s share of the global population.
Nonetheless, cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit substance in the region.
The prevalence rate for cannabis use in South America ranged between 2.9%-3.0% of the population aged15-64 in 2009, between 1.6%-7.6% in the Caribbean and between 2.2%-2.5% in Central America.
The prevalence of cocaine use in South America, Central America and the Caribbean is clearly above the global average. About 0.9%-1.0% of the population aged 15-64 consumes cocaine, equivalent to some 2.6-3.0 million people or 17% of the world’s cocaine-using population.
Following years of increases, the latest data indicate a stabilization at the higher levels. Cocaine continues to be the main problem drug in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, accounting for some 50% of all drug-related treatment demand in the region.
Use of other drugs is below average. This is true for ATS as well as the opioids. Overall opioid use is far more prevalent (some 0.4%) than the use of opiates (0.1%).
The most prevalent prescriptions drugs in the region seem to be prescription opioids. High prevalence of the non-medical use of prescription opioids has been reported by Costa Rica, Brazil and Chile. Most of the ATS use in the region is linked to diverted prescription stimulants
(legally prescribed mainly as anorectics or for the treatment of attention deficit disorders). High levels of consumption have been reported for 2009, in particular from Argentina, Brazil and, to a
Countries in South America, including the Caribbean and Central America, report relatively few drug-related deaths (between 2,200 and 6,300) with a mortality rate (between seven and 20 deaths per million aged 15-64) well below the global average. Countries consistently rank cocaine first as the primary cause of death, which is in accordance with high prevalence of cocaine use and the dominance of cocaine in treatment demand.
Internationally, Afghanistan still accounted for 3,600 tons of opium and UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov said “Afghan opium production will probably bounce back in 2011.” Opium prices have tripled in the past year, according to UN estimates.The agency said Myanmar has reemerged as a major heroin producer.
Cultivation in Myanmar rose by 20 percent in 2010 and with Afghanistan’s decline, its share of global opium production has risen from five percent in 2007 to 12 percent last year, UNODC said.
Cocaine consumption is falling in the United States, the biggest market, UNODC said. But it still got through an estimated 157 tons of the drug in 2009.
Europe is the second largest market with 123 tons. Its consumption has doubled over the past decade.
Market prices for cocaine have collapsed in recent years but the European market is now estimated at $33 billion per year just behind the US market on $37 billion.
UNODC said 200,000 people per year die from narcotics use, more than half from fatal overdoses.
It added that about 18 percent of injecting drug users, an estimated 2.8 million people around the world, have the HIV virus and more than half of injected drug users have Hepatitis C.
The UN leader said at the launch of the report: “Traffickers break more than the law, they break the human spirit. They fuel terrorism and insurgency.”
Ban said drug users should not be blamed and called for greater international action against traffickers.