At a time of increased demand for controlled medicines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has warned of “a hidden epidemic: drug use among older persons” and the harm the pandemic has caused to the health and well-being of this population group.
In its Annual Report 2020 launched today, INCB has highlighted that as the world population ages, there is an increased vulnerability to drug use and drug dependence for older people. INCB calls on governments to focus on drug use among older persons and extend and integrate support to help reverse this alarming trend.
Presenting the findings of the report at a virtual event convened by UNODC South Asia today, INCB Member Jagjit Pavadia expressed concern over the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain of medicines. “Increased demand for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 have created further shortages and disrupted treatment and other health-related services. The Report stresses that people with mental health and substance use disorders have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Mobility restrictions and social isolation have imposed greater strain on people and worsened disorders at times.”
UNODC’s Regional Representative for South Asia, Sergey Kapinos, called for multi-stakeholder efforts to counter illicit trafficking and address drug use among vulnerable groups. “Trends indicate that traffickers are also finding new routes and methods, and trafficking activities via the darknet and shipments by mail are increasing. It is critical for all governments to provide support to help tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases. This is an imperative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, promote justice and leave no one behind.”
The INCB Annual Report 2020 also expresses concern about the high number of drug overdose deaths–especially related to fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Director General of India’s Narcotics Control Bureau, Rakesh Asthaana said, “The Government of India has taken a lead role in countering drugs and psychotropic substances. COVID-19 has indeed led to drug trafficking syndicates changing their strategies. We recognize the need for a formal mechanism of cooperation to check maritime trafficking of drugs in the region, which should be through sharing of real-time information.”
Muhammed Ahsanul Jabbar, Director General, Department of Narcotics Control (Bangladesh), Dr. Laknath Welagedara, Chairperson, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (Sri Lanka), Mr. Abdulla Shareef, Commissioner General of Customs, Maldives Customs Service (Maldives) and Dr Rakesh Kumar Chadda, Chief, National Drug Dependence and Treatment Centre, AIIMS (India) also shared their insights at the launch.
INCB remains concerned about steps taken by some governments towards legalizing cannabis for non-medical purposes and reiterates the need for States to take measures that limit the production, manufacture and trade of cannabis to medical and scientific purposes.