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Hardship may push people into making drugs for a living: UNODC

Report looks at impact of pandemic on the illegal substances industry

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in its 2020 World Drug Report, has highlighted a wide range of possible consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on illegal drug production, supply and consumption.

The report, released on Friday, expressed concern over the adverse impact of the economic hardship caused by the pandemic. This could lead to an increase in the number of people resorting to illicit activities linked to drugs to make a living.

As experienced during the 2008 economic crisis, it could result in reductions in drug-related budgets of the governments; overall increase in drug use, with a shift towards cheaper and more harmful drugs.

The measures taken by governments to counter the pandemic inevitably had double-edged consequences on large-scale drug supply.

Double-edged sword

Some countries, such as Italy, the Niger and countries in Central Asia, have experienced a sharp decrease in drug seizures, amid reports that drug traffickers have diverted their attention to other illegal activities, including cybercrime and trafficking in falsified medicines (in Balkan countries).

Other countries, including Morocco and Iran, have reported huge drug seizures, indicating large-scale drug trafficking, while some have reported an increase in interdiction resulting from increased controls.

The report, which is in six volumes, said the lockdown could hinder the production and sale of opiates in major producing countries. The key months for the opium harvest in Afghanistan are March to June. This year’s harvest took place during the pandemic.

“A recent uptick in heroin seizures in the Indian Ocean could be interpreted as an indication of an increase in the use of maritime routes for trafficking heroin to Europe along the ‘southern route’. If confirmed, the shift ... would indicate a change in the strategy of drug trafficking organisations as a result of the COVID-19 measures,” the report said.

An uptick in heroin seizures in the Indian Ocean could be interpreted as an indication of an increase in the use of maritime routes for trafficking

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

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