COVID-19 impact on drug use situation and access to services for people who use drugs in Central Asia in UNODC brief

COVID-19 has doubtlessly changed the lifestyles, economies, and the original way services were provided globally and in Central Asia. To understand the significance of the impact that restrictive measures imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic on the situation with drug use, provision of drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office in Central Asia (UNODC ROCA) conducted a rapid assessment in four countries of Central Asia. The findings of this assessment are going to help UNODC, as well as donors and service providers, to adapt their work to the new situation.

The rapid assessment examined information gathered from the publications, reports and other informational materials available on the Internet, data provided by drug treatment services, NGOs working with people who use drugs in harm reduction programmes in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Moreover, interviews were conducted with several key informants, who work directly with people who use drugs and are familiar with the local drug scene, as well as individuals from the community of people who use drugs.

46 respondents representing drug treatment facilities (63%), civil society organizations (24%) and non-governmental organizations (13%) participated in the assessment. Respondents’ share by country was 43% from Kazakhstan, 41% from Uzbekistan, 9% from Tajikistan and 7% from Kyrgyzstan.

The assessment findings shed light on the changes in the situation with drug use, namely, the availability, price and purity of drugs, access to services and needs by country. Regional trends were identified based on the analysis of the data for four countries.


According to assessment findings:

  • All countries report significant reductions in the supply of traditional drugs, accompanied by reduced quality and increased costs.
  • In Kazakhstan, the number of seizures of synthetic drugs has tripled compared to the same period of 2019. In Uzbekistan, the use of pharmacy drugs has increased significantly.
  • Demand for online services from drug treatment and harm reduction programmes increased significantly, as well as the same applies to the need for staff training programmes on how to provide services online.
  • The study found that the need for social services among drug users, including food baskets, transport, temporary housing has increased significantly.

The assessment report provided a list of suggestions to ensure the continuity of care for people in need of treatment in the context of the pandemic. The report in English and Russian languages is available at the link below.

The results of the rapid assessment were presented during an online webinar organized on 25 June 2020 to discuss the UNODC global research brief on “COVID-19 and drug supply chain: from production and trafficking to use”. More than 100 participants representing various government agencies, including drug control, law enforcement, customs and border protection and public health institutions as well as civil society organization from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan took part in the webinar. Representatives of the international organizations and donors as well as Mini Dublin Group members have also joined the online meeting.

This assessment was conducted with joint efforts of Sub-Programme on “Research and trend analysis” and Sub-Programme on “Drug prevention, treatment and reintegration and HIV prevention” of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia (2015-2020) with contributions from the UNODC Programme Offices in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.



UNODC Brief on COVID-19 impact on drug use in Central Asia in English

UNODC Brief on COVID-19 impact on drug use in Central Asia in Russian


Shakhnoza Zafari

Communication and External Relations Officer

UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia