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UN Reports Decline in Heroin, Cocaine Production

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime says global production of heroin and cocaine has decreased during the past year. But it says production and use of synthetic drugs appears to be rising in developing nations. The annual report calls for better treatment for addicts and increased cooperation to combat illegal drug trafficking.

The report cites a downward trend in the worldwide cultivation of heroin and cocaine.

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan - the source of 93 percent of the world's opium - was down 19 percent last year.

Colombia, which produces half of the world's cocaine, saw an 18 percent decline in cultivation of coca. Global production of coca was at a five-year low.

Antonio Maria Costa is Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

"The declining purity, the increasing prices, decreasing consumption in the United States, in Europe as well as declining cultivation - you definitely see the world cocaine economy, or the cocaine economy in the world, is shrinking," said Antonio Maria Costa.

Cannabis, or marijuana, remains the most widely cultivated and used drug in the world. The United Nations says marijuana is more harmful than commonly believed and that there was a significant rise in the number of people seeking treatment for marijuana use last year.

The use of synthetic drugs - such as amphetamines, methamphetamine and ecstasy - appears to be on the rise in the developing world. The U.N. report says massive quantities are being produced in Southeast Asia and that Canada has become a major trafficking hub for methamphetamine and ecstasy. The report recommends that addicts should be treated with compassion, not as criminals.

Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy:

"The earlier we can intervene with people with drug problems, the better - it just makes sense," said Gil Kerlikowske.

In the fight against drug-related crime, the study recommends that governments enforce international agreements against organized crime and use existing U.N. conventions to tackle corruption and money laundering.