Combating Drug Addiction: Addressing the Rising Threat of Synthetic Opioids

▴ Addressing the Rising Threat of Synthetic Opioids
The rising threat of synthetic opioids and the overall increase in global drug use call for urgent and coordinated action.


Drug addiction is a significant global issue, and recent data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlights a worrying rise in drug use worldwide. The World Drug Report 2024 highlights the urgent need to combat this growing threat, particularly focusing on the emergence of potent new synthetic opioids.


What are Synthetic Opioids?

Synthetic opioids are man-made substances created in laboratories to mimic the effects of natural opioids like morphine and codeine. These drugs act on the same targets in the brain, providing pain relief but also carrying a high potential for addiction and overdose.


Rising Drug Use Worldwide

The UNODC's report reveals a staggering increase in global drug use. In 2022, an estimated 292 million people used drugs, marking a 20 percent rise over the past decade. Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug globally, with 228 million users. This is followed by opioids (60 million users), amphetamines (30 million users), cocaine (23 million users), and ecstasy (20 million users).


Environmental Impact of Drug Production

The report also highlights the environmental consequences of drug production and trafficking. The harmful effects of spraying illicit substances on crops, for example, contribute to environmental degradation. These practices not only harm ecosystems but also pose health risks to local communities.


Lack of Access to Treatment

One of the most pressing issues noted in the report is the lack of access to treatment for drug use disorders. Of the estimated 64 million people worldwide suffering from drug use disorders, only one in eleven receives treatment. The situation is even more dire for women, with only one in eighteen receiving the necessary care compared to one in seven men.


Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking

The report points out that organized crime organizations involved in drug trafficking are expanding their operations into other illicit sectors. These include financial fraud, unlawful resource exploitation, and wildlife trafficking, exacerbating global crime rates and undermining societal stability.


Shombi Sharp on Balancing Efforts

Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator in India, emphasizes the need for balanced efforts in combating drug addiction. He advocates for upholding rights to health and human rights while providing support to those struggling with addiction. This approach is crucial to addressing the complex and multifaceted nature of drug addiction.


Opium Production and Its Implications

The report also sheds light on changes in global opium production. A significant 95 percent decrease in Afghanistan's opium production in 2023, coupled with a 36 percent increase in Myanmar, led to a 74 percent global decline in opium production. These shifts may have long-term implications, including changes in heroin purity and a potential rise in demand for opiate treatment services.


The rising threat of synthetic opioids and the overall increase in global drug use call for urgent and coordinated action. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, treatment, and support for individuals struggling with addiction. By understanding the complexities of drug addiction and taking proactive measures, we can work towards a healthier and safer world.

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About the Author


Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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