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International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: Global opium and cocaine production at record highs

  • Published at 12:57 am June 28th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:49 am June 28th, 2018
A Myanmar policeman walks past burning seized illegal drugs during a ceremony to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Yangon on June 26 AFP
A Myanmar policeman walks past burning seized illegal drugs during a ceremony to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Yangon on June 26 AFP

The year 2016 saw a record 63,632 people die of a drug overdose in the US, a 21% increase on 2015

Global production of cocaine and opium, stemming largely from Colombia and Afghanistan respectively, has hit record levels, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Tuesday in its annual report.

The production of opium rose by 65% from 2016 to 2017 to 10,500 tons, “the highest estimate recorded by UNODC since it started monitoring global opium production at the start of the 21st century,” a statement said.

Afghanistan accounts for the overwhelming majority with an output of 9,000 tons, a rise of 87% over 2016.

“Among the drivers of that increase were political instability, lack of government control and reduced economic opportunities,” the report said.

The resurgence of production in Afghanistan has led to a 37% rise in the area under opium poppy cultivation to almost 420,000 hectares worldwide, UNODC said, adding that more than three-quarters of this was in Afghanistan itself.

Global manufacture of cocaine in 2016 also “reached the highest level ever reported” - an estimated 1,410 tons or a 25% rise on 2015.

Colombia accounted for the bulk of production with output increasing by more than a third between 2015 and 2016 to 866 tons.

The area used for growing coca leaf, the raw ingredient for cocaine production, is now some 213,000 hectares, with 69% of that in Colombia.

The rise in production in Colombia represents a challenge to the implementation of the accord forged between the government and rebels from the now defunct Farc, and “is bound to augment the power and wealth of trafficking groups,” the report said.

Meanwhile the spread of opioid crisis, which has caused particular alarm in the United States in recent years, “is becoming a major threat to public health,” with opioids “accounting for 76% of deaths where drug use disorders were implicated.”

2016 saw a record 63,632 people die of a drug overdose in the US, a 21% increase on 2015.

The increase is “largely due to a rise in deaths associated with pharmaceutical opioids, including fentanyl and fentanyl analogues,” the report said.