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world drug report

World Drug Report Shines Light on Cannabis

By Caroline Kahiu

Early indications suggest that cannabis legalization has accelerated daily use and has had a wide-ranging impact on public health and safety according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC’s) World Drug Report 2022 released on Monday. Legalization has also increased the number of people with psychiatric disorders, suicides, and the majority of people being treated for drug use disorders are primarily for cannabis use disorders.

According to the report, around 284 million people aged 15-64 used drugs worldwide in 2020, a 26 percent increase over the previous decade. Young people are using more drugs, with use levels today in many countries higher than with the previous generation. The report also spotlights the treatment gap for women globally. Women remain the majority of drug users globally yet tend to increase their rate of drug consumption and progress to drug use disorders more rapidly than men do.

Reacting to these findings, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly stated, “misconceptions regarding the magnitude of the problem and the associated harms are depriving people access to care and treatment and driving young people towards harmful behaviors.”

Additionally, the report also reveals that conflict can act as magnets for synthetic drug manufacturing, which may prolong or fuel violence. Increasing use of substances is reported in countries facing conflict and post-conflict situations. This can be attributed to a situation of instability and inadequate rule of law leading to a lack of proper border control and consequently new routes of trafficking and increased access to drugs. Other reasons include self-medication for pain and mental health problems, the stress of adapting to life in a new environment, and the exposure to unfamiliar patterns of substance use.
This year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (IDADA) or commonly referred to as the “World Drug Day” theme, “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises” resonates with the world drug situation. This is in cognizance of the impact of drug abuse on the health and well-being of people, particularly during the global pandemic and conflict situations across the world.

As we move forward, there is a need to devote the necessary resources and attention to addressing every aspect of the world drug problem, including the provision of evidence-based care to all who need it, and we need to improve the knowledge base on how illicit drugs relate to other urgent challenges, such as conflicts and environmental degradation.
Second and urgently is to address misconceptions about illicit drugs specifically cannabis use through evidence-based prevention messages, prioritization of public health and safety, and keenly draw lessons learned from tobacco and alcohol where the pursuit of commercial interests has targeted vulnerable or disadvantaged groups and competed with public health concerns.

Third, strengthen proactive measures for advocacy and awareness-raising, early warning, and tailor interventions to women, youth, and at-risk groups, and close the treatment gaps so that everyone can access the services they need without stigma and discrimination.
Fourth, mainstream the objective of “do no harm to the environment” in drug policy responses. This calls for bringing the environmental impact of the illicit cultivation of plant-based drugs into the broader debate and complementing strategies that can be adopted in alternative development programs.
Finally, safeguarding health and safety in humanitarian settings and times of crisis calls for versatile actions. It is imperative to strengthen and improve the mental health of children, youth, and families while preventing violence, child maltreatment, substance use as a coping strategy, and other risky behaviors.
Special emphasis should be given to understanding people’s experiences and challenges within the new environment towards fostering resilience leaving no one behind.

Published on The Star Newspaper on 30/06/2022