Vienna, Jun 24 (EFE).- Cocaine supply chains in Europe are diversifying, pushing prices down and quality up, the United Nations World Drug Report showed Thursday.
“This is likely to widen the potential harm caused by the drug in the region and a further expansion of the cocaine market,” the report said.
Global cocaine production has doubled in the last five years with 1,784 tons of pure cocaine registered in 2019, before the pandemic.
The purity of the drug has also increased by 40% in the last decade while it is becoming cheaper and more accessible.
Even though the use of the party drug decreased during the pandemic with social activities heavily curtailed, there are some 20 million cocaine users worldwide, according to the UN report.
The report showed drug consumers on a global level have increased by 22% since 2010, with some 275 million users worldwide. The UN estimated 36 million of those have severe addiction to drugs.
The death toll caused by drug use has also increased, with about half a million people dying in 2019, twice as many as a decade ago.
The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the drug market by accelerating dynamics that had already started developing prior to the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has triggered innovation and adaptation in drug prevention and treatment services through more flexible models of service delivery,” the report said.
Travel restrictions prevented mules from smuggling small shipments of drugs, but as land and maritime routes became more accessible, larger quantities of drugs were shipped across continents.
Drug abuse is no longer a ‘rich country’ problem, according to the report. The UN has predicted an 11% increase of users by 2030, with low-income countries accounting for the majority. It warns the number of drug users in Africa could increase by 40%, while in richer countries it may decrease by 1%.
“While the impact of COVID-19 on drug challenges is not yet fully known, the analysis suggests that the pandemic has brought increasing economic hardship that is likely to make illicit drug cultivation more appealing to fragile rural communities,” the report said.
“The social impact of the pandemic – driving a rise in inequality, poverty, and mental health conditions particularly among already vulnerable populations – represent factors that could push more people into drug use,” it added. EFE