OAS releases executive summary of report on drug supply in the Americas 2021

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WASHINGTON, USA – The Organization of American States (OAS) released last week its Executive Summary of the Report on Drug Supply in the Americas 2021, which analyzes drug supply data in the Western Hemisphere and features information on the trends, challenges and emerging issues of interest for policymakers and the general public. The publication of the complete Report is expected for the first trimester of 2021.

The executive summary, prepared by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (known by its Spanish-language acronym, CICAD), the OAS’ consultative and advisory body on the drug problem, contains statistics on drug supply, in 27 Western Hemisphere countries and presents a series of findings on:

• Cannabis
• Cocaine
• Heroin and Synthetic Opioids
• Methamphetamine

The document was presented during CICAD’s 70th regular session, which took place from November 16-19, 2021. It concludes that: “There is no single drug supply trend that defines the Hemisphere. Analysis of supply data shows diversity with respect to the production, cultivation, and trafficking of illicit drugs in the Americas. It is therefore important for CICAD to work with member states to develop policies and strategies that meet their unique needs.”

“This analysis of supply data shows diversity with respect to the production, cultivation, and trafficking of illicit drugs in the Americas,” said Ambassador Adam Namm, CICAD executive secretary. “We will continue working with member states to expand and enhance the collection and dissemination of information on illicit drug supply. This includes strengthening drug information networks.”

The Report represents robust collaboration with OAS member states on data collection methodology, and careful analysis by CICAD experts. It provides a snapshot of key indicators of drug supply across the Americas, as well as unique, valuable information on trends that will assist in the design and implementation of more effective drug policies.

The report, which responds to requests from member states to develop a picture of drug trafficking trends in the region highlights:

Cannabis

  • Cannabis seizures are the highest for any drug in the Hemisphere, followed by cocaine and coca base substances.
  • Trends in cannabis seizures by sub-region appear to be changing. Historically, the greatest cannabis seizures have been in North America; however, between 2016 and 2019, cannabis seizures remained consistent for the Caribbean and Central America, fell for North America, and rose in South America.
  • Cannabis seizures increased significantly in South America and were driven primarily by Argentina.

Cocaine

  • Coca eradication increased in Colombia between 2016 and 2019 but remained stable in Bolivia over the same time period. After an initial decline between 2016 and 2017, eradication totals in Peru remained stable for the remainder of the period.
  • Colombia reported that production has increased due to more efficient processing methods and new strains of coca with longer productive lives.
  • Arrest trends showed sharp increases in cocaine related arrests in South America; these trends were driven by increases in Argentina.

Heroin and Opioids

  • The heroin trade in the Americas is mainly intra-regional, with very little heroin produced in the region shipped to markets in Europe or Asia. Most of the trafficking data heralded from North America, particularly the United States and Canada.
  • Data show a decline in poppy production between 2017 and 2019.
  • Synthetic opioids remain largely a concern for North America; however, qualitative data raised concerns that fentanyl is increasingly used to adulterate heroin.

Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs

  • Methamphetamine is by far the most common synthetic drug in the region.
  • The methamphetamine market remains concentrated in North America; however, production has shifted south into Mexico, while destined for markets in the United States and Canada.
  • Methamphetamine seizures have increased proportionally more than any other drug seized, although the market remains concentrated in North America.
  • Methamphetamine laboratory seizures have decreased even while indicators for use, and seizures of methamphetamine have increased, suggesting that individual laboratories are producing more.
  • Early warning systems are a valuable tool for identifying the spread of synthetic drugs and other novel substances in the region.

Challenges for drug policy

  • Cannabis and cocaine are the most cited substances in statistics on seizures, arrests, and production; however, trafficking patterns may be changing across the region.
  • The total quantity of cocaine seized per year is rising, while qualitative data indicates more efficient production methods.
  • While the market for methamphetamine is concentrated in North America, the shift in production southward, the ease that it can be produced in any part of the world could present future challenges for other member states.
  • Fentanyl and its analogues continue to be a major concern for North America.
  • Heroin and synthetic opioids continue to be concentrated in specific countries; however, the intra-regional nature of the heroin market, combined with the concerns that heroin can be easily adulterated with fentanyl should be a concern for neighboring countries.
  • Countries should consider developing or strengthening early warning systems to respond to synthetics, new psychoactive substances, and other emerging substances.

CICAD will continue to provide OAS member states with assistance to establish early warning systems, one of the most effective tools for responding to emerging drugs in the Americas today, and to encourage countries to contribute national data to the Early Warning System for the Americas (known by its Spanish-language acronym, SATA).

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