Assistant Secretary Robinson,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you today to take stock of the global synthetic drug problem.
I want to thank our partners and donors, especially the United States and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, for their continued commitment to our work at this important time, and for your presence here today.
The synthetic drug problem shows no sign of abating. It is becoming more sophisticated and deadlier.
According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths related to synthetic opioid overdose reached over 70,000 in the US alone in 2021, up from 56,000 in 2019.
Drug traffickers are synthesizing new illicit drugs every day, using chemicals that are legally available and uncontrolled.
According to UNODC data, drug traffickers on average have introduced 80 new substances to the illicit drug market each year in the last decade.
By the end of 2022, more than 1,100 new psychoactive substances had been identified across more than 134 countries.
Overall, the number of countries reporting seizures of synthetic drugs almost doubled over the last decade, from 30 in 2010 to 57 by 2020.
In Southeast Asia, methamphetamine seizures in 2020 rose by 30 percent on the previous year, with almost 200,000 people being treated for methamphetamine use.
In China, 57 per cent of the 1 million registered drug users reported having used synthetic drugs, mainly methamphetamine.
And just last month, in Mexico, over half a million synthetic opioid fentanyl pills, 128 kilograms of powdered fentanyl, and 100 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized in the largest drug raid to date in the country.
Coupled with high production, synthetic drugs are being manufactured at a lower cost and at a faster, and they are easier to traffic.
By keeping prices low but purity high, drug traffickers are creating a growing illicit market for synthetic drugs, one that is fuelling greater profits and greater demand.
Taken together, this represents a perfect storm for drug consumption and production.
Falling prices and increased availability are making synthetic drugs especially dangerous for young people.
In some cases, such substances are cheaper than an alcoholic drink in a night club, making them more attractive for young people with limited financial resources.
Women on their part face a gender treatment gap.
According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2022, although women represent almost 50 percent of amphetamine users, only one in five have access to treatment for amphetamine use disorders.
Stigma, and lack of access to treatment and rehabilitation prevent them from receiving the help they need.
With the world facing increasing crises and instability, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
Conflict zones are a particularly strong magnet for synthetic drug production. Drug traffickers exploit instability and the lack of security to expand their business.
In 2020, for example, Italian port officials seized over 84 million tablets of the synthetic narcotic Captagon, at a value of 1.1 million dollars, on cargo ships originating from Syria.
Such a trend now risks spreading to Ukraine.
Prior to the conflict there, the number of dismantled clandestine laboratories increased from 17 in 2019 to 79 in 2020. This was already quite troubling.
Ever since the outbreak of conflict there last year, the potential for illegal drug production risks increasing and must be monitored.
We also need to keep an eye on other crisis-ridden regions, including the drug situation related to Afghanistan, where methamphetamine use and manufacturing are on the rise.
Monitoring and early warning are key, so that we may stay ahead of emerging trends and prevent new drug crises from occurring.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These are global problems which require global solutions.
We need multilateralism and international cooperation more than ever.
We need to share information and best practices across jurisdictions to respond more effectively to the evolving synthetic drug problem.
As part of these efforts, UNODC is guiding Member States through our Synthetic Drug Strategy, which I launched in 2021, providing assistance in early warning, science-based health responses, and international cooperation.
In the past year, we provided capacity building in 19 countries across Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, to strengthen the interdiction of synthetic drugs, including synthetic opioids and their precursors.
The Synthetic Drug Strategy is also promoting gender-sensitive research and promoting access to quality drug prevention, treatment and care, especially for women, youth and vulnerable communities.
We have now also published four new modules of the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, namely on treatment and care, prevention, cybercrime, and advanced investigative techniques.
The Toolkit brings together over 300 practical resources from UN specialized agencies and is being used in over 182 countries.
We will continue to implement the Strategy in all of UNODC’s flagship programmes, as well as the Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific-Precursor Control Programme.
Alongside this, we will build on our long-lasting partnerships with other UN entities and health agencies, such as the WHO and the INCB, to leverage the synergies and strengths of our organizations.
Drug trafficking knows no borders, and synthetic drugs are no exception. The CND is an opportune venue to put multilateral solutions into action, to tackle the synthetic drug problem and protect those at risk, leaving no one behind.