Data on the Impact of COVID-19 on Drug Markets Presented on the Sidelines of the CND

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Vienna (Austria), 15 April 2021 — As the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) continues, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to engage in joint efforts to recover better, have been present throughout both the plenary and the side events.

Drug markets have also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as a side event organized by the Programme Development and Management Unit of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch (RAB) has demonstrated.

The Branch presented their updated research findings on the global effects of the pandemic; particularly on drug trafficking, drug use, treatment and service delivery for persons who use drugs. Also, COVID-19 led to shifts in drug use: overall, MDMA, LSD and cocaine were used less due to the closing of social and recreational settings; while increased stress, boredom, more time and changes in financial resources triggered an increase in the use of cannabis, but as well as the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs such as benzodiazepines. The discussions further revealed the variations and nuances in trends, throughout different regions worldwide.

Angela Me, Chief of UNODC RAB, marked the urgency of inserting data-driven processes into policymaking, explaining that, “traffickers have proved to be resilient and highly dynamic, and quickly adapted to changes induced by COVID-19”.

The event, titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Drug Markets: One Year Later”, relied on examples from countries across the globe and official data sourced by UNODC experts, to provide a global overview and explore the future outlook.

UNODC statistician Irmgard Zeiler presented updated research findings on the impact of COVID-19 on drug trafficking and use, illustrating how the impact varies geographically and between different parts of the drug supply change.

The ensuing discussion among participants delved deeper into the regional impact of the pandemic; with examples presented by UNODC global offices. Inshik Sim, Coordinator of the UNODC Global SMART Programme at the UNODC Regional office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, presented the data revealing that there was no impact on opium poppy cultivation. However, farmers reported earning less income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Francois Patuel, Research Officer with UNODC’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, presented the impact of COVID-19 on drug supply chains in the region, revealing an increase in consumption of locally-available drugs and change in user behavior due to restrictions measures and confinement; such as the decline of collective consumption. 

Among the most concerning trends was the impact of COVID-19 on drug trade over the darknet. Data presented during the event revealed an increase in the use of technology and contactless methods of purchasing drugs.

The CND convenes annually and is the foremost drug-policymaking body in the United Nations (UN) system, responsible for monitoring the world drug situation, developing evidence-based strategies for drug control and recommending measures to address the world drug problem. Side events constitute a major part of this yearly event, engaging multi-stakeholder dialogue to seek joint solutions in a spirit of international cooperation.