That’s among the key findings of the latest annual report released on Thursday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which also provides an overview of global drug markets, as well as their impact on people’s health and livelihoods.
Around 275 million people used
drugs worldwide in the last year of unprecedented upheaval caused by the
COVID-19 pandemic, up by 22 per cent from 2010. There is a significant increase
in the use of cannabis during the pandemic.
That’s among the key findings of the latest annual report
released on Thursday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),
which also provides an overview of global drug markets, as well as their impact
on people’s health and livelihoods.
According to UNODC’s World Drug
Report 2021, cannabis potency has quadrupled in some parts of the world over
the last two decades, while the percentage of adolescents who perceived the
drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent. This perception gap prevails
despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and
other harms, especially among regular long-term users.
"Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to
higher rates of drug use, and the findings of UNODC’s 2021 World Drug Report
highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate
young people and safeguard public health,” said UNODC Executive Director, Ghada
In Uganda for instance, people across the country are using different kinds of weeds, among them marijuana, which they boil and inhale as part of concoctions to boosting their immunity against the deadly coronavirus disease.
The report shows that the
COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty
and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost
255 million jobs in 2020. Mental health conditions are also on the rise
worldwide. These factors have the potential to spur a rise in drug use
Moreover, changes have already been observed in drug use
patterns during the pandemic, including increases in the use of cannabis and
the non-medical use of pharmaceutical sedatives. Underlying socioeconomic
stressors have also likely accelerated demand for these drugs.
In parallel, the
Report reveals that drug traffickers have quickly recovered from initial
setbacks caused by lockdown restrictions and are operating at pre-pandemic
levels once again, driven in part by a rise in the use of technology and
cryptocurrency payments, operating outside the regular financial system.
Access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with
online sales and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some USD 315
Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are
also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic.
Rapid technological innovation, combined with the agility
and adaptability of drug traffickers who are using new online platforms to sell
drugs and other substances are likely to increase the availability of illicit
However, a rise in the use of technology during the pandemic has also
triggered innovation in drug prevention and treatment services, through more
flexible models of service delivery such as telemedicine, enabling healthcare
professionals to reach and treat more patients.
“Drugs cost lives,” concludes the UNODC chief.
“In an age
when the speed of information can often outstrip the speed of verification, the
COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that it is crucial to cut through the noise and
focus on facts, a lesson that we must heed in order to protect societies from
the impact of drugs.”
The launch of the 2021 World Drug Report comes ahead of the
International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, observed on 26
June. The 2021 theme of the UNODC-led campaign is “Share facts on
drugs, save lives” to achieve a world free of drug abuse.