Rise in opium cultivation and continued expansion of methamphetamine markets top Asia illicit drug concerns

Bangkok (Thailand), 26 June 2013 - Despite an overall 'stable' global drug use situation, an increase in South-East Asia's markets for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and a continuing rise in opium cultivation pose growing human security and public health challenges, according to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report released today.

Afghanistan accounted for 74 per cent of global illicit opium production in 2012 and remains the world's leading producer and cultivator of opium, while Myanmar is the world's second largest, accounting for 23 per cent of the land used for illicit poppy cultivation and 10 per cent of global opium production, says the UNODC World Drug Report 2013 .

Methamphetamine remains the dominant ATS, accounting for 71 per cent of global ATS seizures in 2011. Methamphetamine pills remain the predominant ATS in East and South-East Asia: 122.8 million pills were seized in 2011. Seizures of crystal methamphetamine increased to 8.8 tons, the highest level in the past five years.

"Illicit drugs continue to jeopardize the health and welfare of people throughout the world," said Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, at the Report's presentation today in Bangkok at Thailand's Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). "Drug trafficking, along with many other forms of transnational organized crime, undermines human development. We must break this destructive cycle to promote sustainable economic growth and greater security and stability."

Seizure data indicates that Afghan opiates are emerging as a competitor to opiates produced and consumed in Southeast Asia - a signal that Myanmar and Lao PDR opiates are insufficient to meet demand from the increasing number of heroin users in China and other parts of Asia - and that drug traffickers are diversifying sources and using new routes and methods, including maritime shipment and air couriers that transit logistical hubs in the region.

"Increases in seizures and use of opiates and methamphetamine throughout South-East Asia - and the diversification of smuggling routes - indicate the drug economy is growing and money flows are increasing to the transnational organized crime groups that states struggle to deal with," said Mr. Douglas at the presentation of the Report today in Bangkok.

Mr. Douglas presented the Report's global overview, regional findings and implications for policy with the assistance of Mr. Shawn Kelley, UNODC Regional Illicit Drugs Analyst.

"We need to support South-East Asia's rapid regional integration and economic growth by providing states with coordinated regional responses to transnational organized crime, promoting the rule of law and assisting with alternative sustainable livelihoods," said Mr. Douglas.

Attendees to the launch of the Report included Pol. Gen. Pongsapat Pongcharoen, Secretary-General ONCB, Mr. Sukhum Opasniputh, Deputy Secretary-General, ONCB, and representatives of the diplomatic corps, Thai Government and law enforcement partners, international law enforcement, UN agencies and NGOs, and members of the international and local media.

"Drug problems are a global threat and every country faces the same situation," said Mr. Sukhum Opasniputh, ONCB Deputy Secretary-General. "Youth, our nation's future, are the targets of organized drug criminals. World Drug Day makes the public aware of the dangers of illicit drugs and encourages us to protect our children from drug-related crimes."

The Report says that while cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance, the increasing use and number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) - drugs designed to remain outside the international drug control system - has emerged as a major public health concern because of the lack of scientific research and understanding of their effects.

Globally, synthetic drugs are now more widely used than cocaine and heroin combined, and the number of NPS increased to 251 by mid-2012, a 50 per cent increase from the 166 reported in 2009, according to the Report. In Asia, NPS have been reported in Brunei Darussalam, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The cocaine market seems to be expanding in the emerging economies in Asia. Large seizures in Hong Kong, China, in 2012 may indicate that cocaine traffickers are targeting Asia as a growing market. In 2011, UNODC estimated that Asia accounted for 8 per cent of global cocaine users - a four-fold increase from 2004-2005, when it was 2 percent. Cocaine seizures - largely driven by Australian quantities - reached new highs in Oceania in 2011.

In addition, the Report draws attention to drug related crimes as a whole and the impact these crimes will have on both the regional and global population.

The UNODC World Drug Report is an annual publication that provides an overview of the world's drug situation in terms of illicit cultivation, production, trafficking, and abuse with the latest data available. It is launched annually on 26 June to mark World Drug Day - the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.