As is now to be expected, the World Drug Report 2013 represents an impressive and wide-ranging set of data, analysis and policy prescription, and provides an overview of recent trends and the current situation in terms of production, trafficking, and consumption, including the consequences of illicit drug use on health. This year it also devotes considerable space to the phenomenon of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).

The comments made at the launch by the UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov, closely resembled those within his Preface to the Report itself, where the Executive Director stated that the ‘findings of the World Drug Report 2013 deliver important lessons for the forthcoming high-level review of the commitments that countries reaffirmed in 2009 on the measures for drug control’.

In this respect, a great deal can be learned from the Report. For instance, as this response demonstrates, beyond the slightly misleading headline message of stability in the markets for ‘traditional’ drugs, it reveals a similar picture to last year: one of increasing complexity and flux, with a special emphasis on the emergence of a wide range of NPS. In addition, with some legitimacy – although on the basis of limited data – the report presents Africa as a region of growing concern and highlights maritime trafficking as an increasing challenge for national and international authorities.

What is more disappointing, however, is the fact that the Report displays a persistent message around the fact that the international drug control structures remain more or less effective at the global scale and that the market for drugs included within the conventions remains ‘stable’. Moreover, the issue of NPS is utilised in a convoluted attempt to highlight the effectiveness of the existing control framework. In reality, however, proliferation of NPS itself highlights the fluidity and uncertainty with which the illicit drug market evolves, and, in this situation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the global situation is ‘stable’. As understanding improves on the dynamics of drug markets in various regions of the world, there are a growing number of sovereign states (or jurisdictions therein) that are moving away from the global blueprint set outby the conventions to move towards policy experimentation (in particular for cannabis, but also for other drugs via decriminalisation and depenalisation), which may require policy.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.

Previous reports in this series:

IDPC response to the 2012 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2011 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2010 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2009 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2008 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2007 World Drug Report

IDPC response to the 2006 World Drug Report