Research on drugs

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UNODC research on drugs generates the sound knowledge needed to support evidence-based policies and programmes. Analysis of persistent and emerging challenges across the drug supply chain, from drug cultivation to trafficking and use, aims at strengthening responses to the drug problem at global, regional and national levels.

UNODC research activities on drugs dates back to the 1990s, when the 1997 World Drug Report, first of a long series, was published. The Report has become the flagship publication of the UNODC and its preparation, including the research activities it entails, embodies the large spectrum of issues that UNODC research on drugs covers.

World drug report

Consisting of five separate booklets, the World Drug Report 2021 provides an in-depth analysis of the global drug markets and paints a comprehensive picture of the measurable effects and potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the world drug problem.

Booklet 1 summarizes the four subsequent booklets by reviewing their key findings and highlighting their policy implications. 

Booklet 2 contains an overview of the global demand for and supply of drugs. It provides the latest estimates of and trends in drug use and looks at several cross-cutting issues related to the world drug problem. Among the issues examined are the extent of drug use and its health impact, including trends seen among people with drug use disorders, drug treatment demand, the harms resulting from NPS use, and HIV and hepatitis among people who inject drugs. The booklet also features a projection of the impact of population growth on drug use by 2030.

Booklet 3 contains an analysis of the global market for cannabis, starting with a review of cannabis supply, including trends in the cultivation of and trafficking in cannabis herb and cannabis resin at the global level and in the various regions. It contains the latest estimates of and trends in cannabis use, including an analysis of changes over time in cannabis use and risk perceptions. The booklet also includes an overview of the latest developments in measures regulating the non-medical use of cannabis in Canada, Uruguay and some jurisdictions in the United States of America.

Booklet 4 contains an analysis of the global market for cocaine, starting with a review of cocaine supply, including trends in the cultivation of coca bush and in the manufacture of and trafficking in cocaine at the global level and in the various regions. It also contains an overview of the latest estimates of and trends in cocaine use in different markets.

Booklet 5 contains an early assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug markets, as the situation continues to evolve and more data become available. The aim is to paint a comprehensive picture of the measurable effects and potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis to assist Member States in anticipating and addressing challenges that may arise in the near future.

RESEARCH ON DRUG CULTIVATION AND PRODUCTION

UNODC provides evidence on the general situation and trends in the production of opiates, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants and cannabis at the global, regional and national levels.

To enhance knowledge and support countries in the collection of and reporting on data, UNODC works with Member States to monitor drug cultivation, production and manufacture, while collaboration with regional partners, intergovernmental organizations and academic institutions enhances monitoring capacities at national, regional and international levels.

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RESEARCH ON DRUG TRAFFICKING

UNODC monitors global and regional developments in drug trafficking based on regular reporting from Member States, the monitoring of open sources and first-hand information from structured interviews or similar exercises.

Research on drug trafficking provides an overall picture of the illicit markets, covering aspects such as trafficking routes and flows, latest trends and emerging patterns in trafficking and distribution, criminal actors involved and modi operandi employed.

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UNODC monitors global and regional developments in the demand for drugs, including the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, through various channels and activities, including regular reporting from Member States, household surveys and targeted studies of vulnerable population groups. 

Information from these sources is used to produce datasets but also analysed holistically to provide an overall picture of the many challenges the world faces in terms of drug use and health consequences, covering aspects such as trends in extent and patterns of drug use, risk behaviours, drug related morbidity and mortality and coverage of drug treatment for those suffering from drug use disorders.

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Data

UNODC regularly updates global statistical series on drugs, including on drug trafficking (drug seizures, drug prices, drug purity, drug-related arrests). These data are available at dataUNODC

Following an extensive review of the current data collection instrument on drugs, the Annual Report Questionnaire, the UNODC, in consultation with experts from the Member States and international organisations, is preparing a revised Annual Report Questionnaire, which will be implemented from 2021.

28-30 August 2019Second Expert Working Group on improving drug statistics and strengthening the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ)

29-31 January 2018Expert Working Group on Improving Drug Statistics and Strengthening the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ)