The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis has the potential to generate a lasting transformation of drug markets and change drug consumption for the worse, according to a UN report published here on Thursday.
“Based on the experiences of the economic crisis of 2008, it is fair to assume that the economic downturn may lead to reductions in drug-related budgets among member states, an overall increase in drug use, with a shift towards cheaper drugs, and a shift in patterns of use towards injecting drugs and to substances with an increased risk of harm due to a greater frequency of injections,” according to the report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) based in Vienna.
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The report emphasized that those with socioeconomic disadvantage have been hit harder by the pandemic, which could lead to an increase in the number of people resorting to illicit activities linked to drugs in order to make a living.
It pointed out that as a reaction to a reduction in opportunities for drug traffickers to distribute drugs in local markets owing to lockdown measures, actors along the drug supply chains are stockpiling drugs.
This may lead to an oversupply of drugs once restrictions are lifted, which could result in an increase in the availability of low-cost, high-purity drugs and raise the risk of drug overdoses, it added.
The international community should work in concerted effort to cope with the new challenges posed by the pandemic regarding the supply, transit and final destinations of drugs, the report said.