The United Nations warn of the consequences of increasingly potent and legally purchasable cannabis. But stronger drugs are also a cause for concern. Because they appear in new sales markets.

According to a report by the United Nations (UN), the increasing consumption of cannabis is putting additional strain on healthcare facilities.

In the European Union (EU), hemp drugs are the cause of around 30 percent of drug therapies, according to the annual report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, which was published on Monday. In Africa and some Latin American countries, most such therapies are related to cannabis addiction.

The increasing potency of hash and marijuana on the market, combined with regular use, has led to a rise in addiction and mental illness in Western Europe, according to UNODC. In North America, as a result of the legalization of cannabis, consumption is also increasing – especially among young adults. A growing proportion of psychiatric disorders and suicides there are linked to regular cannabis use, the report said. Hospital stays are also increasing. The UNODC acknowledged that the legal sale of these drugs has increased tax revenues and reduced arrests for cannabis possession.

The environment is also affected

The report also analyzed environmental pollution from drugs. According to this, the indoor cultivation of cannabis causes 16 to 100 times higher CO2 emissions than outdoors due to the higher energy requirements. Cocaine production emits thirty times more CO2 than cocoa beans that could be planted instead. According to the UNODC, illicit drugs do not have a significant impact on the environment globally. Locally, however, considerable damage can occur, for example from chemical waste in the production of synthetic drugs or from deforestation for the cultivation of coca plants.

In terms of harm to health, the United Nations drug watchdog is particularly concerned about opioids in North America. One of these heroin-like substances is fentanyl. According to preliminary estimates, around 108,000 people would die from overdoses in the United States in 2021, up 17 percent from the previous year.

The UNODC speaks of another “opioid epidemic” caused by the abuse of the painkiller tramadol in northern and western Africa and in the Middle East. There is also evidence of tramadol drug use in Asia and Europe.

The UN agency is also concerned that other stronger drugs will find new markets. Seizures indicate that cocaine smuggling is spreading beyond the main distribution areas of North America and Europe to Africa and Asia. Methamphetamine, which is also a stimulant, is no longer just a problem in East and Southeast Asia, but also in countries like Afghanistan and Mexico.

The UNODC estimates that 284 million young people and adults use drugs. These calculations are based on the latest available figures from 2020. More than 11 million people inject drugs with syringes. Half of them are infected with hepatitis C, 1.4 million are living with HIV.