As the United States faces its own opioid epidemic at home, a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that the production of opium-based drugs and cocaine are at an all-time high.
According to the 2018 World Drug Report, the use of pharmaceutically-produced opioids accounts for more than three-fourths of non-medical, prescription drug deaths worldwide. The synthetic opioid Fentanyl is a growing problem in North America, while Tramadol poses a greater threat in parts of Africa and Asia.
“We are facing a potential supply-driven expansion of drug markets, with production of opium and manufacture of cocaine at the highest levels ever recorded,” wrote Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UNODC.
Opioids can be helpful painkillers when prescribed for those in need, but drug traffickers have begun to manufacture them illegally at more alarming rates. According to the UNODC, global opium production increased by 65% between 2016 and 2017 — the highest estimate recorded by the agency since it began monitoring drug production nearly 20 years ago.
The younger generation is most at risk for drug use, says the report, with 12- to 17-year-old teenagers at greatest risk. While men tend to abuse drugs more often than women, women begin using at a later stage.
“The international community needs to step up its responses to cope with these challenges,” Fedotov stated in his introduction to the report.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed this global issue Tuesday in his message observing the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
“I urge countries to advance prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration services; ensure access to controlled medicines while preventing diversion and abuse; promote alternatives to illicit drug cultivation; and stop trafficking and organized crime,” said Guterres.