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WARNING: EMBARGO
Do Not Use Before 22 January 200110 a.m. GMT

UNIS/NAR/708
19 January 2001

UN DRUG REPORT SEES
HOPE ON HORIZON

VIENNA, 22 January (UN Information Service) -- The global drug problem -- often characterized as hopeless -- is neither unstoppable nor irreversible, according to the UN’s new World Drug Report.

World Drug Report 2000 -- the work of the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) -- sees the most significant progress in the downward trend in production of the world’s two main problem drugs: cocaine and heroin, with coca leaf and cocaine manufacture falling some 20 per cent between 1992/93 and 1999, and with opium production dropping more than 17 per cent in the past year alone. In conjunction with these trends, the main consumer markets have stabilized or even experienced a decline in numbers.

"The time has come to change the way we think about drugs", says ODCCP Executive Director Pino Arlacchi. "The world community must end the psychology of despair that has gripped the minds of a generation and instead focus on a pragmatic, long-term approach to reducing both the supply of and demand for illicit drugs".

The Report says that thanks to a "get-serious" approach on the part of most major coca and opium poppy producing countries, production is now limited to fewer countries than ever before. Afghanistan and Myanmar together account for about 90 per cent of global illicit opium production and Colombia alone is responsible for two-thirds of global coca leaf production.

By contrast, drug trafficking and trafficking routes have proliferated due to globalization, with the number of countries reporting seizures rising from 120 in 1980/81 to 170 in 1997/98.

The UN estimates that some 180 million people -- 4.2 per cent of all persons 15 years and above -- were consuming drugs in the late 1990s. Cannabis headed the list (144 million users), followed by amphetamine-type stimulants (29 million), cocaine (14 million) and opiates (13.5 million, including 9 million heroin addicts). Due to poly-drug use, these numbers do not add up to the 180 million global estimate.

The UN also points to the broader implications of the world’s drug problem, including the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, money laundering, corruption and financing of insurgents and terrorists.
"The reduction and eradication of drug production has to be accompanied by a range of other measures", Mr. Arlacchi says, citing poverty reduction, conflict resolution, mediation and institution building.

More than 130 countries, both developed and developing, report to ODCCP that they face drug abuse problems. The UN believes the total number is probably higher. The most significant increase worldwide in the 1990s was in consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants such as methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Among the good news:

  • In the US, cocaine use fell by some 70 per cent over the 1985-1999 period, compared with a 40 per cent fall in overall drug use.
  • In Germany, heroin abuse remained stable and declined in Spain and Italy in the 1990s.
  • Declines in drug-related deaths were reported by France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
  • Success in alternative development programmes has resulted in significant reductions of coca and opium poppy cultivation in Bolivia, Pakistan, Lao PDR and Thailand.
  • The Report also cites statistics linking declines in drug consumption to increased spending on prevention, research and treatment.

The outlook:

  • ODCCP notes that while the goals set by General Assembly members in 1998 -- halving drug use and substantially reducing illicit production by 2008 -- may have seemed very ambitious at the time, the experience of the last two years provides good indications that they are achievable.
  • The new UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, signed in December 2000 in Palermo, Italy, should help step up the fight against all dimensions of organized crime, including drug trafficking.
  • World Drug Report 2000 argues the case for a more balanced view of the global drug problem, one which highlights not only the progress achieved in overcoming the problem, but also the misery brought about by illicit drugs.

The 172-page Report, richly illustrated with maps, graphs, tables and photographs, is published by Oxford University Press. It is not to be confused with the annual reports of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which is a treaty body mandated to monitor the implementation of the International Drug Control Conventions.

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For more information on World Drug Report 2000, contact Sandro Tucci at (431) 260-60-5629,
or visit the ODCCP web site at: www.odccp.org.