Cocaine demand and supply are booming worldwide, and methamphetamine trafficking is expanding beyond established markets, including in Afghanistan where the drug is now being produced, a United Nations report said Sunday.
Coca bush cultivation and total cocaine production were at record highs in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, and the global number of cocaine users, estimated at 22 million that same year, is growing steadily, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its annual World Drug Report.
Cocaine seizures have, however, grown faster than production, containing the total supply to some extent, the report said. The upper band of the estimated total supply was higher in the mid-2000s than now.
"The world is currently experiencing a prolonged surge in both supply and demand of cocaine, which is now being felt across the globe and is likely to spur the development of new markets beyond the traditional confines," the UNODC report said.
"Although the global cocaine market continues to be concentrated in the Americas and in Western and Central Europe (with very high prevalence also in Australia), in relative terms it appears that the fastest growth, albeit building on very low initial levels, is occurring in developing markets found in Africa, Asia and South-Eastern Europe," it said.
While almost 90% of methamphetamine seized worldwide was in two regions - East and Southeast Asia and North America - seizure data suggests those markets have stabilized at a high level, yet trafficking has increased elsewhere, such as the Middle East and West Africa, the report said.
It added that reports and seizures involving methamphetamine produced in Afghanistan suggested the drug economy was changing in that country, where 80% of the world's illicit opium poppy, which is used to make heroin, is produced.
"Questions remain regarding the linkages between illegal manufacture of heroin and of methamphetamine (in Afghanistan) and whether the two markets will develop in parallel or whether one will substitute the other," it added.