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COVID-19’s impact on global drug use

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner highlights the coronavirus pandemic’s potential impact on drug use worldwide.

Illicit drug use shot up 30% worldwide over the past decade and is expected to rise further this year as more people cope with the coronavirus pandemic by turning to substances, according to a new United Nations report.

A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime study released Thursday found illegal drug use spiked from 2009 to 2018 with 269 million users globally, or 5% of the population.

“In the long run, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis has the potential to lead to a lasting transformation of the drug markets,” the report reads. “The economic difficulties caused by the COVID-19 crisis may affect people who are already in a position of socioeconomic disadvantage harder than others. This could lead to an increase in the number of people resorting to illicit activities linked to drugs in order to make a living (production, transport, etc.) and/ or being recruited into drug trafficking organizations.”

Producers in some places are out of precursor ingredients needed to make some drugs due to supply chain issues, which has led prices for some drugs, such as methamphetamine, to increase in the United States. Other drug producers are watering down the substances to make them go further.

A U.N. official said those being hurt the most by rising drug use were lower-income communities, in which people may be unable to get help to deal with an addiction or resort to assisting drug dealers or manufacturers to make money.

“Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women, and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. “The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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