The production and trafficking of cocaine are experiencing a surge worldwide, having significantly slowed down during the COVID pandemic.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported on Thursday that the resurgence was fueled by new centers and expanding criminal networks, which emerged as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a disruptive effect on drug markets. With international travel severely curtailed, producers struggled to get their product to market,” the report stated. “Night clubs and bars were shut as officials ramped up their attempts to control the virus, causing demand to slump for drugs like cocaine.”
But the drug has come roaring back, “with most regions showing steadily rising numbers of users over the past decade,” according to the report.
“The surge in the global cocaine supply should put all of us on high alert,” UN official Ghada Waly. “The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality.”
According to the UN, the increase in the supply of cocaine can be attributed to advancements in the process of converting coca bush to cocaine, as well as an increase in overall cultivation of the plant. This has led to a 35% increase in supply between 2021 and 2022, resulting in more seizures by law enforcement agencies. In 2021 alone, over 2,000 tons of cocaine were seized.
To combat this trend, Waly recommended transnational efforts to raise awareness, prevent drug use, and promote international and regional cooperation.
The UN noted that demand for cocaine is highest in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe. However, trafficking hubs in western and central Africa could lead to an increase in users on that continent and in Asia.
“With its latest knowledge and trends on the routes, modalities, and networks employed by criminal actors,” said UN official Angela Me, “it is my hope that the report will support evidence-based strategies which stay ahead of future developments in cocaine production, trafficking and use.”