Cocaine market booms as meth trafficking spreads: UN Report

Cocaine market booms worldwide

The world’s supply and demand for cocaine are both increasing. Methamphetamine trafficking, according to a United Nations study, is expanding outside of conventional markets, including Afghanistan, where the drug is now manufactured.

In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 296 million drug users, up from 240 million in 2011, according to the annual World Drug Report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) late on Sunday.

Only 50% of the rise, according to the UNODC, can be attributable to population expansion worldwide during the period.

Over the past ten years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of persons who have drug use problems, reaching 39.5 million. In 2021, the UN study said that just one in five persons received treatment.

However, cocaine seizures have increased more quickly than production, which has somewhat constrained the total supply, according to the study. In the middle of the 2000s, the upper band of the predicted total supply was higher than it is now.

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“The world is currently experiencing a prolonged surge in both supply and demand of cocaine, which is now being felt across the globe and is likely to spur the development of new markets beyond the traditional confines,” the UN report said.

“Although the global cocaine market continues to be concentrated in the Americas and in Western and Central Europe [with very high prevalence also in Australia], in relative terms it appears that the fastest growth, albeit building on very low initial levels, is occurring in developing markets found in Africa, Asia and South-Eastern Europe,” it said.

While East and Southeast Asia and North America accounted for about 90% of the methamphetamine captured worldwide, seizure data suggests that those markets have stabilised at a high level while trafficking has expanded in other regions, such as the Middle East and West Africa, the research said.

Additionally, it noted that reports and seizures concerning methamphetamine made in Afghanistan—where 80% of the illicit opium poppy needed to create heroin are cultivated worldwide—suggested that the drug economy in that nation was evolving.

“Questions remain regarding the linkages between illegal manufacture of heroin and of methamphetamine [in Afghanistan] and whether the two markets will develop in parallel or whether one will substitute the other,” it added.

According to the study, the synthetic opioid drug was a key factor in the bulk of the 90,000 deaths from overdoses in North America in 2021 alone.

Furthermore, given the existing know-how and the large markets… emerging in the region, “there are signs” that the crisis in Ukraine “could trigger an expansion of the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs,” it added.

Cocaine use problems


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