By Chike Ojukwu
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Country Representative, Dr. Oliver Stolpe has called on Federal Government to adopt the National Drug Control Master Plan, as part of efforts to boost the fight against use of narcotics and illicit substances in Nigeria.
Speaking at this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Dr Stolpe said, “I hope the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will adopt this plan shortly so that it can start to serve government agencies, civil society, the private sector and international development partners as a roadmap to tackle the drug use epidemic in Nigeria.”
According to him, the blueprint, spanning from 2021 to 2025 was developed within the framework of the EU-Nigeria partnership project Response to Drugs and Organised Crime in Nigeria.
“Based for the very first time on an extensive evidence base, including the 2018 National Drug Use Survey 2018, it fully aligns with international best practice in drug control and embraces the balanced approach consisting of enforcement, prevention and treatment and care,” he explained, in a statement from the agency’s communication associate, Olivia Okorondu.
Similarly, UN Secretary General, Dr. Antonio Guterrez, in his message to mark the occasion, called for global solidarity saying, “the world drug problem remains an urgent challenge that threatens to exacerbate pandemic impacts and hinder a healthy and inclusive recovery.”
“The theme of this year’s observance tagged: “Share facts on drugs. Save lives” is a call for solidarity, hence urged “Member States to listen to the science and take action, building on agreed international frameworks and drawing on UN support for health and justice.”
Gutierrez, whose message was delivered by Dr Stolpe said “action based on evidence is crucial for our responses to drugs, too. Science and trust in science are the hero and lesson of the pandemic. The world needs both to win against the virus. Scientists delivered safe and effective vaccines in record time. Access to reliable and verifiable information is making the difference between life and death.”
“The 2021 World Drug Report from the United Office on Drugs and Crime shows that deaths attributed to disorders related to drug use have nearly doubled over the past decade. New HIV infections among adults worldwide have declined in recent years, but not among people who inject drugs, who accounted for 10 per cent of new infections in 2019,” he added.
International cooperation, he explained “has helped to limit the proliferation of new psychoactive substances, but the problem is shifting to poorer regions where control systems are weaker. Dark web drug sales continue to rise, and non-medical use of pharmaceuticals, including opioids, is expanding.”
According to the UN chief, drug trafficking and organized crime fuel and perpetuate cycles of violence and conflict, saying “armed groups and terrorists profit from the illicit drug trade, and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of people even more vulnerable to drug crime and illicit crop cultivation.”
The statement reads: “Disparities in access to essential controlled medicines in low- and middle-income countries have been further heightened in the pandemic. For example, medical professionals in West and Central Africa in 2019 had four doses of pain medication every day for one million inhabitants; in North America, the number of doses was nearly 32,000.”
“Investing in balanced prevention as well as control of drug use and drug use disorders produces solid returns — saved lives, healthier populations, improved workforce participation and productivity, and reduced criminal justice costs.”
“Many of the risk factors associated with crime and violent behaviour are also drivers of drug use, and targeted efforts focusing on these overlapping dynamics including childhood maltreatment and lack of social support, can help to strengthen prevention.”
“Moreover, research suggests that law enforcement and policing need to go after the criminals at the upper levels of the drug trafficking chain, who reap the highest profits and wreak the greatest violence.”
“Public-private partnerships, with tech companies, postal and courier services, and shipping companies – represent an essential frontline response in the new fight against drug traffickers, who are increasingly exploiting the legal cargo trade and postal services to move their illicit product.”
“Better data is also helping to identify trends and enable real-time monitoring of rapidly shifting trafficking routes. Science-driven early warning systems are helping to predict emerging drug threats. Greater international cooperation and support are needed to help low-income countries to take advantage of these advanced capabilities.”
In her statement, the UNODC Executive Director, Ms Ghada Waly, said “knowing the facts about drugs can save lives. In 2020, an estimated 275 million people used drugs and over 36 million suffered from drug use disorders, according to the UNODC World Drug Report. Drugs are destroying health and stealing futures, with drug use alone killing almost half a million people in 2019.”
“Awareness of the risks and access to evidence-based treatment and care can help prevent such tragedies. The COVID pandemic has shown us the vital role of trustworthy, scientific information and the power of community in influencing health choices. We must urgently leverage this potential to address the world drug problem,” she stressed.
“The theme highlights the need for evidence-based approaches to equip the public, as well as health and service providers, and decision makers with the tools to inform choices and effective services.”
“Health and safety depend on reliable information. Over the last two decades, cannabis potency has almost quadrupled in the United States, while doubling in Europe. But the percentage of adolescents who perceive regular cannabis use as harmful has decreased by as much as 40 per cent.”
“We need to fill gaps in trusted public information with greater investments in health, science, and data. Worldwide, only one out of 8 people in need of drug-related treatment receives it, and new HIV infections among people who inject drugs are not declining.”
“Governments need to expand evidence-based prevention and treatment programmes, as well as monitoring and early warning mechanisms to help lower-income countries detect and counter new substances and use trends. Let’s make verified information our ally as we address world drug challenges with shared responsibility, and advance towards a vision of health for all.”