Islamic Republic of Iran

INCB: We Must Stop Drugs Being Sold to Kids via Social Media

INCB Annual Report highlights the connection of drug abuse and social exclusion, warns of illegal Internet pharmacies targeting young audiences via social media and highlights regional trends

Ordering drugs online: illegal Internet pharmacies target young audiences via social media

VIENNA, 28 February (UN Information Service) - Illegal Internet pharmacies are selling illicit drugs and prescription medicines online and are increasingly targeting young audiences, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says in its Annual Report 2011, launched today in Vienna. The President of INCB, Hamid Ghodse, noted that "illegal Internet pharmacies have started to use social media to get customers for their websites, which can put large, and especially young, audiences at risk of dangerous products, given that the World Health Organization has found that over half of the medicines from illegal Internet pharmacies are counterfeit." Key aspects of illegal Internet pharmacies' activities include smuggling their products to consumers, finding hosting space for their websites and convincing consumers that they are, in fact, legitimate. INCB is calling on Governments to close down illegal Internet pharmacies and to seize substances which have been illicitly ordered on the Internet and smuggled through the mail.

Youth have a right to be protected from drug abuse and dependence - INCB calls for more efforts to break vicious cycle of social exclusion and drug problems

Helping marginalized communities experiencing drug problems must be a priority, according to the INCB Report. In communities all over the world, drug abuse and drug trafficking has become virtually endemic, part of a vicious cycle involving a wide array of social problems such as violence, organized crime, corruption, unemployment, poor health and poor education - with youth particularly affected. The President of the Board Hamid Ghodse: "Youth of these communities must have similar chances to those in the wider society and have a right to be protected from drug abuse and drug dependence." Fractured communities, with little sense of social cohesion, are more likely to experience multiple problems, including drug abuse, and these problems can contribute to the social disorder and violence that have been seen in cities around the world and which can impact the wider society. Such communities not only place their own residents at risk but can also threaten the stability of the wider community. Ghodse warns: "It is crucial that the needs of communities experiencing social disintegration are urgently tackled before the tipping point is reached, beyond which effective action becomes impossible."

Regional Highlights

Central America and the Caribbean continue to be used as transit areas for drug trafficking from South America to North America. Approximately 90 per cent of the cocaine in the United States is trafficked via Mexico.  Some Mexican drug cartels, under pressure from Mexican law enforcement authorities, have moved their operations to Central America, employing increasing levels of violence. In 2010, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were identified for the first time as major transit countries for smuggling drugs primarily destined for the United States. Drug trafficking has become an important driver of homicide rates in Central America and is the single main factor behind the rising levels of violence in the sub region.

North America remained the world's largest illicit drug market in 2010 with all three countries in the region continuing to have high levels of illicit drug production, manufacture, trade and consumption.  Cannabis remains the most widely produced drug in the region, with vast amounts produced in all three countries.

The illicit cultivation of cannabis plants in Western and Central Europe has increased dramatically. Cannabis plants are increasingly cultivated on an industrial scale, mainly indoors, and with the involvement of organized criminal groups. Europe remains the world's second-largest cocaine market. There has been diversification in the routes of cocaine trafficking to Europe, with increased trafficking via North Africa. The volume of cocaine seized by customs authorities in Eastern Europe rose dramatically in 2010. The Board remains concerned about the variety of substances abused in Europe, which continues to grow. Results of a 2011 survey of young people aged 15 - 24 showed that five per cent of respondents had abused substances that were not under control.  In 2010, a record level of new substances were identified, many of which are not under international control. Europe accounts for the largest proportion of the global opiate market, and the abuse of heroin is the biggest drug problem in Europe in terms of morbidity and mortality.

West Asia remains the epicentre of illicit opium poppy cultivation and significant increases in opium production occurred in 2011. The combination of spreading opium poppy cultivation in provinces in Afghanistan, a substantial increase in the farm-gate price of opium, and planned decreases in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could lead to even further increases in production beyond 2011.  This is of great concern to the Board, particularly in a region which already suffers from some of the highest levels of abuse of opiates.

The trafficking of cocaine from South America through Africa and into Europe has emerged as a major threat in recent years. West Africa continues to be used for the trafficking of cocaine with drug traffickers increasingly using shipping containers and commercial aircraft to smuggle cocaine into the region. Heroin enters the continent through East Africa and is smuggled, either directly or via West Africa, into Europe and other regions.  In 2011, record seizures of heroin were effected in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. The Board is particularly concerned that the increasing flow of heroin into Africa has led to increased drug abuse throughout the region, particularly in East Africa and Southern Africa.

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For further information please contact:

Regina Rohrbach
United Nations Information Service (UNIS)
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-3898
Email: regina.rohrbach[at]


Anne Thomas
United Nations Information Service (UNIS)
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5588
Mobile: (+43) 699-1459-5588
Email: anne.thomas[at]