By MARK LORENZANA
Drug treatments in Mexico for methamphetamine use have already outnumbered those for alcohol, showing a sharp rise of the synthetic drug throughout the country, warned the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In its World Drug Report 2022, which was presented at the international level on Monday, June 27, the agency revealed that the use of synthetic narcotics in the country increased 218 percent between 2013 and 2020, due to the “spectacular expansion” of the markets at the international level.
At the end of March of this year, Raúl Martín del Campo Sánchez, a member of the UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), warned about the increase in the consumption of crystal-type methamphetamine in Mexico, as part of the rise of synthetic drugs around the world.
According to the UNODC, methamphetamines and opioids such as fentanyl are manufactured in Mexico in large clandestine laboratories, where criminal groups are now producing larger amounts of synthetic drugs. The market for these types of drugs has also continued to grow.
North America and Asia are the two largest markets for methamphetamine, and in those continents drug seizures reached record figures in 2020.
Methamphetamine manufacture and use have also continued to expand beyond traditional markets in East and Southeast Asia and North America, particularly Southwest Asia and Latin America.
The UNODC revealed in its report that the trafficking of synthetic drugs is growing faster than that of plant-based drugs, especially in the case of amphetamine-type stimulants, such as methamphetamine.
“Global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants have increased very rapidly over the past decade,” Del Campo Sánchez said. “Pink methamphetamine seizures have increased five times, amphetamine quadrupled and ecstasy tripled.”
Del Campo Sánchez said that opioids, such as fentanyl, continue to be the deadliest drugs, responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in North America, particularly in the United States, where 91,799 overdose deaths were recorded in 2020. It is estimated that opioid overdose caused 107,622 deaths in 2021.
The UNODC also warned about the resumption of cocaine trafficking and consumption after the covid-19 pandemic.
“Multiple indicators point to a general situation of increasing cocaine use in the past decade, and early indications suggest that use is increasing again in 2021 after a decline during the pandemic,” said Del Campo Sánchez.
He also warned of the expanding cocaine trafficking through sea routes, as evidenced by 90 percent of cocaine seizures occurring worldwide in 2021 via maritime transport.
Drug-seizure data suggests that trafficking of cocaine will expand to other regions outside of the two main markets, which are North America and Europe, with higher levels expected in Africa and Asia.
Faced with this situation, the UNODC called on countries to intensify cross-border cooperation and the exchange of intelligence to interrupt drug smuggling by transnational criminal groups.
Several solutions the UNODC recommended for curbing the increase in drug trafficking on waterways include strengthening container control and drug-interdiction capabilities in ports, as well as raising awareness among port authorities and commercial shipping.
“It is necessary to increase technical assistance to developing countries to facilitate their participation in international cooperation and joint operations, including combating drug trafficking on the dark web,” Del Campo Sánchez said.
According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2022, in 2020, the year the pandemic began, one in 18 people in the world used a drug, which represented 26 percent more than the previous decade.
“The number of people who used drugs (284 million) in 2020 was 26 percent higher than in 2010, in part due to the growth of the world population,” the report said.