Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us for this special event of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to launch the 2022 UNODC World Drug Report, and to mark this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
I am especially pleased that we have two youth representatives joining us virtually for this discussion.
We need to listen to the views and ideas of young people on how we can best address drug problems, and support them in making positive choices. Their participation is also an important reminder of our reason for marking this international day, for launching this report, for the technical assistance UNODC provides, and for the hard work of this commission. We do this to protect the health and well-being of people, young people most of all, and to safeguard their future prospects and prosperity.
We can only achieve shared goals with shared solutions, and I would like to thank all Member States who contributed to the World Drug Report by sharing their data and supporting its aims, namely to improve knowledge, raise awareness, and provide the basis for effective policy responses to world drug challenges.
We have emerged from more than two years of the global pandemic and associated lockdowns to face persisting as well as new crises and conflicts. In this time, the world drug problem has not spared lives.
Opioid overdose deaths continue to reach new record highs in North America.
This year’s report also registered new record highs for cocaine manufacture, as well as seizures of opiates and amphetamine-type stimulants. Illicit drug markets are expanding into new and vulnerable regions.
Young people are using more drugs than previous generations, and the majority of people being treated for drug use disorders in Africa and Latin America are under the age of 35.
The availability of treatment and other services has not kept pace with these developments. Women in particular are suffering from treatment gaps.
The large majority of people who use drugs continue to be men, but women make up more than 40 per cent of people who use ATS and who engage in non-medical use of pharmaceutical stimulants, pharmaceutical opioids, sedatives, and tranquillizers.
Almost one out of every two ATS users is a woman, but only one out of five people in treatment for ATS disorders is a woman, despite evidence that women tend to develop drug use disorders faster.
Great inequality also remains in the availability of pharmaceutical opioids for medical use.
A patient in North America is up to 7,500 times more likely to receive a dose of a pharmaceutical opioid than a patient in West and Central Africa.
These facets of the world drug problem make clear how drug dangers and challenges face all of us, but the most vulnerable and poorest among us are the ones who suffer the consequences.
We see evidence of this sad fact in conflicts and refugee camps, and in poverty-stricken communities.
That is why for this year’s international day, UNODC launched a campaign calling for better “Care in Crises”.
Care in crises means ensuring science-based services for all, including for people in emergencies and humanitarian settings; people left behind in the pandemic; and people facing barriers of stigma and discrimination. This includes services for the treatment and care of drug use disorders and HIV, as well as access to controlled substances for medical purposes, in line with the call that the CND issued with UNODC, INCB and WHO in March.
Care requires better communication.
This year’s World Drug Report, which takes a closer look at the impacts of cannabis legalization, has found that reported daily use is increasing in areas where the drug has been legalized.
Perceptions of cannabis risks have also decreased, even while young people regularly using cannabis are accounting for a greater proportion of people being hospitalized, suffering from psychiatric disorders or attempting suicide.
The gap between perceived and actual harm represents a threat to the health and development of adolescents and youth, and indicates a clear need to strengthen evidence-based prevention. To do so, we need to engage with young people, who are the best ambassadors and role models for their generation.
We also need whole-of-society approaches that mobilize all sectors and industries - from health, justice, social welfare, and education to media and entertainment - to get behind messages promoting public health and safety.
Even as multiple crises are driving our economies closer to recession, we need to encourage and support governments to keep investing in health and justice, building on the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention and the International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders.
Care means meeting the obligations of shared responsibility by strengthening international cooperation against drug trafficking, as well as associated crimes, corruption, terrorism, and illicit flows.
International cooperation is also needed to support alternatives to illicit drug cultivation that enable impoverished communities to develop livelihoods that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
Better care in crises requires better information to better tailor responses.
This year’s World Drug Report sheds light on topical issues including the environmental impacts of illicit drugs, the interplay between drugs and conflict, the expansion of dark web sales, and the different drug threats facing different regions.
I hope the 2022 World Drug Report will support the Commission in taking concerted action to address diverse drug challenges. In these efforts, Member States can rely upon UNODC’s committed support to 143 countries and territories around the world, through our network of field offices and our newly streamlined structure at HQ, which aims to better focus our work on drugs and scientific services, border management, and crime prevention and criminal justice.
In closing, I would like to thank Ambassador D’Hoop, the Chair of the 65th session of the CND, and our distinguished panel for supporting the World Drug Report launch and sharing their important perspectives.
I am also grateful to the Member States joining us today. This is your report, and I encourage you to make the best use of its findings, to provide care for all those who need it, as we work together in solidarity to overcome crises and save lives.