Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the launch of the World Drug Report 2018

New York, 26 June 2018


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for the launch of the 2018 World Drug Report.

I would especially like to thank the President of the General Assembly for being here and highlighting the importance of coordinated and balanced action to address the world drug problem.

The findings of this year's World Drug Report show that drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production hitting absolute record highs, presenting multiple challenges on multiple fronts.

Drug trafficking online using the darknet is growing rapidly.

Just one of the largest darknet trading platforms, Alphabay, had featured more than two hundred and fifty thousand listings for illegal drugs and chemicals before it was taken down by a globally coordinated police operation last year.

At the same time, the sheer range of drugs and combinations available is unprecedented. New psychoactive substances continue to proliferate, and methamphetamines are spreading outside their usual markets.

We are increasingly seeing substances of unclear origin, moved through illicit channels, sold as medicine and destined for non-medical use. The threats to health and safety posed by these developments are clearly alarming.

Non-medical use of prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions in parts of the world.

The opioid crisis, in particular use of fentanyl and its analogues, has contributed to a twenty-one per cent increase in the number of drug overdose deaths in the US to more than sixty-three thousand.

The report also finds that the downward trend in Europe in opiate use appears to have come to an end.

More concerning still is tramadol addiction, levels of which are soaring in parts of Africa.

Tramadol is not under international control and most of the tramadol seized worldwide is illicitly supplied, originating from clandestine labs in Asia.

West, Central and North Africa accounted for 87 per cent of global seizures of pharmaceutical opioids in 2016.

This is affecting highly vulnerable populations in regions where healthcare systems are not able to cope.

Globally, some 450,000 people died in 2015 as a result of drug use. Of those deaths, 167,750 were a direct result of drug use disorders, in most cases involving opioids.

Treatment and services continue to fall short in the face of adverse health consequences caused by drug use.

It is clear that if we want to help countries get to grips with the opioid threat and other drug challenges, we need to vastly expand the availability of evidence-based prevention and treatment services.

UNODC is working with WHO and other partners to promote such action, in line with the international drug control conventions, the UNGASS outcome document, the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, human rights instruments and the Sustainable Development Goals.

This includes advancing International Standards on Drug Use Prevention, as well as International Standards for the treatment of drug use disorders.

We are also supporting guidelines on treatment and care for people with drug use disorders in contact with the criminal justice system, and scaling up core interventions to help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.

The World Drug Report 2018 highlights the importance of gender- and age-sensitive drug policies, which can help to further target responses.

In particular, a focus on breaking the chain of social, neurobiological and psychological factors and inequalities increasing the susceptibility of young people to drug use disorders can support effective prevention and contribute to achieving SDG targets.

To address the global opioid crisis, UNODC has launched its new integrated and multidisciplinary strategy to further step up our support to countries.

This includes addressing international control of substances and law enforcement efforts to tackle supply, as well as initiatives to promote use and access to opioids for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing misuse and diversion - all of which are critical to addressing the threats posed by synthetic opioids.

The project also seeks to go beyond the current crisis and strengthen prevention platforms, including through early warning systems.

At the same time, UNODC remains fully engaged in supporting governments to address record levels of opiates and cocaine, including through promoting sustainable alternative development.

UNODC stands with Colombia and Colombians in addressing the scourge of the illicit drug industry, within the longer term objective of building a sustainable and equitable peace. Deep, structural development reforms take time and perseverance before their results can be appreciated.   

I just briefed the UN Security Council on our efforts with Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, including through UNODC's Strategic Actions to Respond to the Global Threats of Opiates initiative.

This national, regional and inter-regional approach aims to support comprehensive and holistic responses, encompassing activities focusing on drug demand and supply reduction, alternative development and crime prevention.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNODC is committed to working with countries to seek balanced, integrated solutions to drug challenges and achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Drug Report represents a key pillar of our support, along with assistance to translate international obligations into action and capacity building on the ground to enable effective responses and protect the health and welfare of humankind.

I hope that the report findings serve to promote thoughtful discussion, inform policies and strengthen international cooperation.

UNODC is here to support you. Thank you.