Drugs on the web, better quality cocaine, more harmful marijuana, aging youth

The findings and conclusions of the World Drug Report 2021 prepared by the United Nations Organization demolish the strategies and weapons used to date to combat the consumption and trafficking of narcotics, while revealing the high capacity of the actors in this business to innovate in systems and formulas aimed at increasing sales and to raise the harmful quality of drugs.

The UN found that drug use killed nearly half a million people in 2019, while use disorders resulted in the loss of 18 million years of healthy life, mainly due to opioids. "During the past year, around 275 million people have used drugs, 22% more than in 2010," assert.

“Cannabis products have nearly quadrupled in potency, yet the percentage of teens who perceive cannabis as harmful has fallen by as much as 40 percent, despite evidence linking regular use to health problems, particularly in young people, and despite the correlation between potency and damage ”.

The investigation found that, in parallel, drug traffickers have quickly recovered from the initial setback caused by lockdown restrictions and are operating at pre-pandemic levels once again. Access to drugs also becomes simpler than ever with online sales.

Research finds that markets on the dark web are now worth about $ 315 million annually. Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic.

In 2019, an estimated 275 million people worldwide aged 15 to 64, or 1 in 18 people in that age group had used drugs at least once in the previous year (range: 175 million to 374 millions).

The text reveals that the diversification of the supply chains of cocaine to Europe has caused a drop in prices and an increase in quality, which threatens Europe with a new expansion of the cocaine market.

Appreciates that the cocaine trafficking route between South America and Europe, the second most important in the world, is changing. Supply chains, once dominated by a few organized criminal groups, are undergoing change as a result of the involvement of many more groups.

“Much of the cocaine entering Europe used to be imported through well-established channels, in particular by Italian organized criminal groups and through alliances between Colombian and Spanish groups. However, nowadays organizations from the Balkans are increasingly involved in trafficking and supply, and some of them source cocaine directly from the producing areas of the Andes region, regardless of intermediaries. "

Among drug traffickers, increased competition and efficiency of supply has accelerated, making cocaine easier to obtain and increasing in quality. The purity of the cocaine available in Europe has increased by 40% in the last ten years, which in practice means a reduction in the price per pure unit of high-quality cocaine.

“The greater ease with which high-quality cocaine can be obtained is likely to lead to an increase in the total number of people who use cocaine and encourage those already using it to use more. This will continue to aggravate the damage that this drug can cause”.

It notes that the increase in the use of light aircraft to transport cocaine through South America during the COVID-19 pandemic calls for an intensification of controls over aviation in general. "Technical assistance is particularly effective in areas such as the regulation of the granting of pilot licenses and the registration of operations with aircraft parts and aeronautical fuel."

It suggests that more assistance is also needed from a criminology point of view, especially in terms of strengthening the capacity of laboratories to analyze the chemical fingerprint, which, in the long run, can support investigations. national and international criminal law on cocaine trafficking.

Strategies that promote other means of subsistence as an alternative to coca bush cultivation and coca production should also include measures to strengthen institutions and improve access to the services they provide.

Timely monitoring of the cultivation of the coca bush and the manufacture and trafficking of cocaine, including related illicit financial flows, remains a priority. In addition, innovative tools and geospatial analysis should be used to better understand the drivers of the coca economy and their links to the legal economy in areas along the supply chain.


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