June 25th, 2009 – A UN agency has published a comprehensive report on the worldwide illicit drugs market, the World Drug Report 2009. The graphs and maps below show the extent of the problem and measures to tackle it.
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Some argue that strict controls have created a thriving black market that breeds violence and corruption. In the report’s preface, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa calls for greater investment in drug treatment and crime control. He says legalising drugs would be “an historic mistake” as a free market would spark a drug epidemic. “Societies should not have to choose between protecting public health or public security: they can and should do both.”
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Cannabis is still the most widely produced and used drug in the world. It is also a drug that is increasing in potency. In the last decade, the amount of THC (the harmful component) found in marijuana from North America – grown using the latest techniques – has almost doubled.
The World Drugs Report shows consumption of both cannabis and cocaine, at least in the western world, remains steady or is in decline. In the last decade, cocaine use in the USA among 10th and 12th grade high school students fell by 40% and 30%. In Spain, Europe’s largest cocaine market, annual prevalence of cocaine among secondary school students fell from 7.2% in 2004 to 4.1% in 2006. The picture is less clear in developing countries where data is limited. Use of amphetamines, methamphetamine and ecstasy has levelled off in developed countries but production and consumption in developing countries may be growing.
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Routes shown are general indications of illicit drug routes. They are not intended to show exact routes. Most of the world’s supply of cocaine comes from South America (1). Venezuela is one of the main departure points for illicit drug consignments leaving the region. Drugs are flown or shipped to West Africa in shipping containers, small boats, or private and commercial aircraft. West Africa has become a major hub for smuggling South American cocaine into Europe (2) as British and American anti-drug efforts have curtailed the use of traditional smuggling routes. In West Africa (3) the drugs are stockpiled and prepared for transport into Europe by South American, European and local drugs gangs. The drugs are smuggled to Europe (4) by shipping container, overland, airfreight or on commercial passenger flights using “mules” via West and East Africa.
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In 2007 Iran made by far the highest number of seizures of opium – 84% of the world’s total. It also tops the list of countries seizing heroin – 28% of the global total – followed by Pakistan (15%), Turkey (15%) and Afghanistan (11%). Mexico, USA and Bolivia top the list of cannabis herb seizures.
One of the main recommendations made in the World Drugs Report was greater efficiency in law enforcement by focusing more on the small number of high profile, high volume and violent drug traffickers instead of the large numbers of petty offenders. Source.

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