While drug challenges are emerging from new psychoactive substances (NPS), the 2013 World Drug Report (WDR) is pointing to stability in the use of traditional drugs. The WDR will be a key measuring stick in the lead up to the 2016 Review. Marketed as 'legal highs' and 'designer drugs', NPS are proliferating at an unprecedented rate and posing unforeseen public health challenges. Mr. Fedotov urged concerted action to prevent the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these substances.
This is an alarming drug problem - but the drugs are legal. Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS, which have not been tested for safety, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs. Street names, such as "spice", "meow-meow" and "bath salts" mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of NPS, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control.
While the use of traditional drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, seems to be declining in some parts of the world, prescription drug abuse and new psychoactive substance abuse is growing. In Europe, heroin use seems to be declining. Meanwhile, the cocaine market seems to be expanding in South America and the emerging economies in Asia. Use of opiates (heroin and opium), on the other hand, remains stable (around 16 million people, or 0.4 per cent of the population aged 15-64), although a high prevalence of opiate use has been reported from South-West and Central Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and North America.
In terms of production, Afghanistan retained its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally (75 per cent of global illicit opium production in 2012). The global area under opium poppy cultivation amounted to 236,320 ha and was thus 14 per cent higher than in 2011. Nonetheless, given a poor yield, owing to a plant disease affecting the opium poppy, in Afghanistan, global opium production fell to 4,905 tons in 2012, 30 per cent less than a year earlier and 40 per cent less than in the peak year of 2007.