World Drug Report 2013

The World Drug Report presents a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in drug markets. It covers production, trafficking, consumption and related health consequences.

The World Drug Report presents a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in drug markets. It covers production, trafficking, consumption and related health consequences. Chapter 1 of this year’s report examines the global situation and the latest trends in the different drug markets and the extent of illicit drug use, as well as the related health impact.

Chapter 2 addresses the phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which can have deadly consequences for their users but are hard to control, with dynamic, fast mutating producers and “product lines” which have emerged over the past decade.

Global drug use situation remains stable

On the whole, the global drug use situation has remained stable. While there has been some increase in the estimated total number of users of any illicit substance, estimates show that the number of drug users with dependence or drug use disorders has remained stable. The increase in the annually estimated number of users is, to a large extent, a reflection of an increase in the world population.

Injecting drug use and HIV remain a public health concern

New data reveal that the prevalence of people who inject drugs and those who inject drugs and are also living with HIV in 2011 was lower than previously estimated: 14.0 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to be injecting drugs, while 1.6 million people who inject drugs are living with HIV. This reflects a 12 per cent decline in the number of people who inject drugs and a 46 per cent decline in the number of people who inject drugs that are living with HIV since the 2008 estimates.

New psychoactive substances

While new harmful substances have been emerging with unfailing regularity on the drug scene, the international drug control system is floundering, for the first time, under the speed and creativity of the phenomenon known as new psychoactive substances (NPS). 

The number of NPS reported by Member States to UNODC rose from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 bymid-2012, an increase of more than 50 per cent. For the first time, the number of NPS actually exceeded the total number of substances under international control (234).

NPS are substances of abuse, either in a pure form or a preparation, that are not controlled by international drug conventions, but which may pose a public health threat. In this context, the term “new” does not necessarily refer to new inventions but to substances that have newly become available in specific markets. In general, NPS is an umbrella term for unregulated (new) psychoactive substances or products intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs.

Member States have responded to this challenge using a variety of methods within their legislative frameworks, by attempting to put single substances or their analogues under control.

It has generally been observed that, when a NPS is controlled or scheduled, its use declines shortly thereafter, which has a positive impact on health-related consequences and deaths related to the substance, although the “substitution effect” has inhibited any in-depth research on the long-term impact of NPS scheduling. There are of course, instances when scheduling or controlling a NPS has had little or no impact.

The full World Drug Report 2013 is available to download here.