UNODC World Drug Report 2022 Highlights Trends in Global Drug Supply and Demand

PeopleOther ♦ Published: June 29, 2022; 18:18 ♦ (Vindobona)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its annual World Drug Report. The Report highlights new trends on cannabis post-legalization, environmental impacts of illicit drugs, relations between drug markets and conflict zones like Ukraine, and drug use among women and youth. Learn more about the World Drug Report 2022.

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly stated that the "numbers for the manufacturing and seizures of many illicit drugs are hitting record highs, even as global emergencies are deepening vulnerabilities." / Picture: © UNODC/Max Brucker / Flickr Attribution (CC BY 2.0,

A global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as their impact on health, is provided in the 2022 World Drug Report, compiled and published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

UNODC launches the World Drug Report 2022 to foster greater international cooperation to counter the problems in the world that are caused by drugs. The goal is to strengthen international cooperation and to assist the UN Member States in addressing threats caused by drug markets.

Global drug trends by region

The report identifies different trends in the consumption of drugs by country and region.

Many countries in Africa and South and Central America, have a large proportion of people seeking treatment for cannabis use disorders. The majority of opioid use disorders are treated in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Overdose deaths in the United States and Canada continue to break records, primarily due to the non-medical use of fentanyl.

Key Issues in the World Drug Report 2022

According to UNODC's report, approximately 284 million people aged 15-64 used drugs worldwide in 2020, a 26 percent increase from the previous decade. In many countries, young people are using more drugs today than their elders. The majority of people treated for drug use disorders in Africa and Latin America are under 35 years old.

According to the report, there are approximately 11.2 million people who inject drugs worldwide. Nearly half of these individuals suffered from hepatitis C, 1.4 million suffered from HIV, and 1.2 million suffered from both conditions.

According to UNODC, the issue of Cannabis legalization in North America appeared to have increased daily cannabis use. Especially potent cannabis products are used among young adults. There have also been reported increases in people with psychiatric disorders, suicides, and hospitalizations. Additionally, legalization has increased tax revenues and reduced marijuana arrest rates.

Another important issue is the continued growth in drug production and trafficking. According to UNODC, Cocaine manufacturing was at a record high in 2020, growing 11 percent from 2019 to 1,982 tons. Cocaine seizures also increased, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, to a record 1,424 tons in 2020.

According to UNODC, around 90 percent of the cocaine seized globally during 2021 was shipped in containers. In addition to the main markets of North America and Europe, cocaine trafficking is now spreading to other regions, including Africa and Asia.

Globally, methamphetamine trafficking has continued to grow, with 117 countries reporting seizures of methamphetamine in 2016‒2020 versus 84 in 2006‒2010. Besides, between 2020 and 2021, opium production worldwide increased seven percent to 7,930 tons, primarily due to an increase in production in Afghanistan.

In addition, the 2022 World Drug Report suggests that Illicit drug markets can have local, community, or individual-level impacts on the environment. According to UNODC the carbon footprint of indoor produced cannabis is between sixteen and one hundred instances more than outdoor produced cannabis on average and the footprint of 1 kilogram of cocaine is 30 times increased than that of cocoa beans.

Other environmental impacts can be great deforestation associated with illicit coca cultivation, waste generated at some stage in artificial drug manufacture that can be 5-30 instances the extent of the stop product, and the dumping of waste which can affect soil, water, and air directly, as properly as organisms, animals and the food chain indirectly.

Another important key finding of the report is that women remain in the minority of drug users globally yet tend to increase their rate of drug consumption and progress to drug use disorders more rapidly than men do. It is estimated that around 45 percent of users of amphetamines and non-medical users of pharmaceutical stimulants, pharmaceutical opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers are Women.

The report also sees fewer women entering addiction treatment. Although nearly one in two amphetamine users is a woman, only one in five is in treatment for amphetamine addiction.

The World Drug Report 2022 also highlights the multiple roles women have in the global drug economy. Women are pressured by criminals to smuggle, produce and distribute illicit substances. Women at risk of poverty are particularly at risk of being pushed into drug-related crime by criminals. For example, the report highlights that women perform many tasks in the cocaine economy, including growing coca, transporting small quantities of drugs, selling to users, and smuggling them into prisons.

Drug production in Ukraine and other conflict zones

The report also points out that illicit drug economies can flourish in conflict zones and where the rule of law is weak, which in turn can prolong and fuel conflict.

According to UNODC the Middle East and South-East Asia are perfect examples that conflict situations can act as a magnet for the manufacture of synthetic drugs. UNODC suggested that this effect may be greater when the conflict area is close to large consumer markets. Historically, parties to the conflict have used drugs to finance conflict and generate income.

Conflicts may also disrupt and shift drug trafficking routes, as has happened in the Balkans and more recently in Ukraine.

Regarding the most recent conflict in the Wolrd, there was a significant increase in the number of reported clandestine laboratories in Ukraine, skyrocketing from 17 dismantled laboratories in 2019 to 79 in 2020. The highest number of dismantled laboratories reported in any given country in 2020.

Executive Director Ghada Waly on the World Drug Report 2022

Reacting to these findings, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly stated that the "numbers for the manufacturing and seizures of many illicit drugs are hitting record highs, even as global emergencies are deepening vulnerabilities."

The Executive Director of UNODC expressed the "need to devote the necessary resources and attention to addressing every aspect of the world drug problem". Therefore UNODC supports the provision of evidence-based care to all who need it and wants to improve the knowledge base on how illicit drugs relate to other urgent challenges, "such as conflicts and environmental degradation", according to Director Waly.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

World Drug Report