Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Launch of the World Drug Report 2019

26 June 2019


Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the launch of the 2019 World Drug Report.

The findings of this report provide a detailed picture of global drug challenges. Our knowledge and understanding of these challenges are improving, further underscoring the need for enhanced international cooperation to advance integrated and well-balanced health and criminal justice responses to drug supply and demand.

Health and justice need to work hand in hand to effectively address the world drug problem and be on track towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. That is also the theme of today's International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

In this year's World Drug Report, the availability of new drug-related data from two highly-populated countries, India and Nigeria, has sharpened regional and global estimates.

According to new estimates, some thirty-five million people in the world suffer from drug use disorders and require services. Drug use has caused some five hundred and eighty-five thousand deaths in 2017. That's more than half a million mostly young men and women.

More than half of those deaths are attributed to untreated hepatitis C among people who use drugs.

Gaps in terms of prevention and treatment are an important dimension of the challenges that we face.

Drug-associated disorders are particularly prevalent in prison settings. Those incarcerated face higher risks of HIV and hepatitis C transmission, yet they are underserved by treatment programmes.

In 2017, North America saw the number of overdose deaths resulting from the use of opioids rise by some fourteen per cent.

In the United States, forty-seven thousand, six hundred people died from opioid overdoses, accounting for sixty-eight per cent of total overdose deaths. Canada reported nearly four thousand deaths related to opioids.

Stabilization of opioid overdose deaths has been noted last year, especially in the United States. However, according to CDC figures, deaths attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues rose by about ten per cent.

The trafficking of synthetic opioids has also been expanding in Europe and elsewhere. While just four countries reported fentanyl seizures to UNODC in 2013, sixteen countries did so in 2017.

Meanwhile, what has been called "the other opioid crisis" is affecting West, Central and North Africa.

Tramadol has been used as a painkiller for decades and remains outside international control. New data suggests that the misuse of tramadol represents an even greater problem than previously believed.  

In Asia, manufacture and use of methamphetamine is a growing concern, with the quantities seized up more than eightfold between 2007 and 2017.

Global opium and cocaine production have remained high. At the same time, both opiate and cocaine seizures have increased to record levels in 2017, growing even faster than opium and cocaine production over the last decade.

This indicates greater effectiveness of law enforcement efforts. Strengthened international cooperation helps to increase interception rates.

For example, this year's World Drug Report shows a decline in opiate trafficking from Afghanistan along the "northern" route through Central Asia to Russia. While in 2008 some ten per cent of global interceptions of morphine and heroin produced in Afghanistan were made in countries along the northern route, by 2017 this number was at one per cent.

This could be a visible result of an increased effectiveness of regional responses in Central Asia, rolled out with the support of UNODC programmes and other regional and sub-regional platforms.

International efforts to counter the growth of New Psychoactive Substances, or NPS, have also been effective. NPS are a particularly insidious threat given the fluidity of that market.

At the global level, the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS monitors new substances, helps keep countries up to date on new developments and provides a platform for information sharing.

The international community, through the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, has moved quickly in recent years to act upon such warnings and address emerging threats. At its session in March, the CND put a number of additional new substances under international control.

At the same March session, the CND at the ministerial level reaffirmed its commitment to balanced, rights-based action to counter the world drug problem based on the international drug control conventions.

The Ministerial declaration adopted by the CND states: "We commit to safeguarding our future and ensuring that no one affected by the world drug problem is left behind."

UNODC supports countries in implementing this approach. Our country, regional and global programming is focused on helping the international community meet its commitments.

We provide tailored technical assistance through our field offices and global programmes; and through toolkits and research.

To support Member States in addressing the opioid crisis, we have developed an integrated Opioid Strategy.

The Strategy covers areas from early warning mechanisms to law enforcement cooperation and includes the "United Nations Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs": an interactive platform bringing together resources from the UN system and other partners.

We also work with partners to develop and help implement international standards on prevention and treatment of drug use disorders and HIV, as well as standards and norms on the administration of justice and the treatment of prisoners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For the world to truly advance balanced, health- and rights-based approaches to drug supply and demand, in full compliance with international conventions, and thus move forward towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, fair, humane and efficient criminal justice institutions are an essential part of the equation.

The World Drug Report 2019 comes as a timely global resource for health and criminal justice responses.

The UN family has increased its focus on justice and the rule of law - SDG Sixteen - ahead of the High-level Political Forum next month. The international community is gearing up for the SDG Summit in September as well as next April's UN Crime Congress in Kyoto, Japan.

In its recommendations, the report puts forth a range of actions, which include scaling up evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions related to drug use, HIV and hepatitis C.

They also include improving access to prevention and treatment services for prison populations, which suffer from a higher rate of drug use disorders and infectious diseases.

Effective solutions can also involve promoting alternatives to incarceration, in line with the conventions, by providing people with drug use disorders who have committed minor drug-related offences with the option of voluntarily entering drug treatment services.

Removing barriers which limit the availability and accessibility of controlled drugs for their medical use, for example to relieve pain and suffering, is another urgent priority, which needs to be accompanied by actions combating the diversion of prescription drugs for non-medical use.

And beyond seizures per se, coordination among national, regional and international institutions should aim to further strengthen law enforcement capacities in order to effectively dismantle drug trafficking organizations and transnational organized criminal groups.

Joint responses are also crucial to address linkages between terrorist and criminal networks, and to counter terrorist groups engaging directly or benefitting indirectly from criminal activities, including drug trafficking.

Cross-border cooperation is also needed to clamp down on darknet drug trafficking, which continues to increase and presents major challenges for law enforcement.

Finally, there is a continuing need to improve data and analysis, given the evolving complexity of global challenges linked to drugs. Well-funded, impartial research enables our understanding of the problems we face and helps inform policy decisions.

This is an essential dimension of the "balanced, integrated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary and scientific evidence-based approach to the world drug problem" for which the CND's Ministerial Declaration has called.

I will now give the floor to my colleague Angela Me, UNODC's Head of Research, who will present the key findings of the World Drug Report 2019.

Thank you.