Internal Security Trends and Incidents

World Drug Report 2023: Expanding Illicit Drug Markets


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Measures to tackle drug trafficking

Mains level: Global Menace of Drug trafficking


Central Idea

  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently released the World Drug Report 2023, shedding light on the escalating issue of drug use and the insufficiency of treatment services and interventions. The report highlights the increasing number of people who inject drugs, surpassing previous estimates, and emphasizes the pressing need for action amidst intersecting global crises.

“Relevance of this article: Prevalence of Drug trafficking in India, Public health and security concerns”

Key findings of the report

  • Increased Number of People Who Inject Drugs: The report reveals that the global estimate of people who inject drugs in 2021 is 13.2 million, which is 18 percent higher than previously estimated. This significant increase highlights the growing prevalence of drug injection and the need for targeted interventions.
  • Escalation in Global Drug Use: The report indicates that over 296 million people used drugs in 2021, representing a 23 percent increase compared to the previous decade. This alarming rise in drug use calls for comprehensive measures to address the root causes and consequences of substance abuse.
  • Surge in Drug Use Disorders: The number of individuals suffering from drug use disorders has skyrocketed, reaching 39.5 million, a staggering 45 percent increase over the past ten years. This finding underscores the urgent need for accessible and effective treatment services to support those grappling with drug-related disorders.
  • Impact of Drug Trafficking on the Environment and Crime: The analysis highlights that drug trafficking not only poses health risks but also accelerates environmental devastation and crime, particularly in the Amazon Basin.
  • Treatment Disparities and Access Inequality: Access to treatment for drug use disorders remains highly unequal, with fewer than 20 percent of people receiving the necessary care. The report highlights the disparity in treatment access, particularly for women using amphetamine-type stimulants, with only 27 percent receiving treatment. Addressing these inequalities is crucial for providing equitable support to all individuals in need.
  • Vulnerability of Youth: The report underscores the vulnerability of youth populations to drug use and substance use disorders in various regions. In Africa, 70 percent of individuals in treatment are under the age of 35.

Specific consequences of drug trafficking

  • Environmental Devastation: The drug trafficking is accelerating environmental devastation, particularly in the Amazon Basin. The production of illicit drugs contributes to deforestation, pollution, and the use of harmful chemicals, leading to ecological harm and the loss of biodiversity.
  • Crime and Violence: The drug trafficking contributes to increased crime rates and violence. The competition among drug trafficking networks for control over drug markets and routes can result in violent conflicts and endanger the safety of communities.
  • Exacerbation of Global Crises: The drug trafficking compounds intersecting global crises, including conflicts and environmental challenges. The illicit drug trade contributes to instability, violence, and environmental degradation, further complicating efforts to address these crises.


The prevalence of drug trafficking in India

  • Geographical Location: India is strategically located between the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan) and the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam), two major drug-producing regions in the world. This proximity makes India susceptible to the flow of drugs from these regions.
  • Sandwiched Between Drug-Producing Regions: India finds itself “sandwiched” between the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle, acting as a transit route for drug shipments. The movement of drugs across the country poses a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies.
  • Use of Innovative Techniques: Drug traffickers continually adapt to law enforcement measures by employing innovative techniques. The use of drones for drug and weapon supply, particularly in border areas like Punjab, has emerged as a new phenomenon in drug trafficking.
  • Involvement of International Cartels: India has seen an increase in the involvement of international drug cartels, particularly South American cartels controlling the cocaine trade. These cartels often have connections with local drug lords, gangsters, and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) based in various countries.
  • Linkages with Terrorism and Organized Crime: Drug trafficking networks have been found to have connections with terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. The illicit money generated from the narcotics trade is often used to finance terrorism and fund other disruptive activities.
  • Darknet Markets: The proliferation of darknet markets has disrupted traditional drug markets, making it more challenging to track and intercept drug shipments. Studies have indicated that a significant portion of the darknet is utilized for illicit drug trafficking.

Steps taken by India to address the issue of drug trafficking

  • National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances: India has a comprehensive policy framework to address the issue of narcotics trade. The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances provides a framework for controlling the illicit traffic in drugs, preventing drug abuse, and providing care and rehabilitation to drug addicts.
  • Narcotics Control Bureau: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is the nodal agency for combating drug trafficking in India. It works closely with other law enforcement agencies to prevent drug trafficking, intercept drug shipments, and prosecute drug traffickers.
  • International cooperation: India has been cooperating with other countries to combat the narcotics trade. It has signed several bilateral and multilateral agreements to strengthen cooperation on drug trafficking, including the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
  • Seizure of drugs: Law enforcement agencies have been seizing large quantities of drugs in recent years. In 2020, the NCB seized over 9,500 kg of drugs and arrested over 5,000 people in drug-related cases.
  • Awareness campaigns: The government has been running awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers of drug abuse. It has also been working with NGOs and civil society organizations to provide care and rehabilitation to drug addicts.
  • Use of technology: Law enforcement agencies are using technology to track drug trafficking. For example, the NCB has been using social media and the dark web to track drug trafficking.
  • Strengthening border security: India has been strengthening its border security to prevent the entry of drugs into the country. The government has been using modern technology, such as drones and sensors, to monitor the borders.
  • Use of financial intelligence: Law enforcement agencies are using financial intelligence to track the money trail of drug traffickers. They are working closely with banks and financial institutions to identify suspicious transactions and freeze the assets of drug traffickers.


Way forward: Bridging the disparities in access to drug-related disorder treatment services

  • Increase Funding and Resources: Governments and international organizations should allocate sufficient funding and resources to improve treatment services for drug-related disorders. This includes investment in infrastructure, trained healthcare professionals, and essential medications to ensure adequate and quality care.
  • Strengthen Healthcare Systems: Efforts should be made to strengthen healthcare systems, particularly in regions where access to treatment is limited. This can be achieved by improving the training and capacity of healthcare professionals, establishing specialized treatment centers, and integrating drug-related disorder treatment into existing primary healthcare services.
  • Enhance Prevention and Early Intervention: Emphasize the importance of prevention programs and early intervention strategies. Educate communities, schools, and families about the risks associated with drug use and promote healthy alternatives. Implement evidence-based prevention programs that target vulnerable populations, including youth, to reduce the demand for drugs and minimize the occurrence of drug-related disorders.
  • Address Gender Disparities: Develop gender-responsive treatment approaches that take into account the specific needs and challenges faced by women with drug-related disorders. Increase women’s access to treatment services, ensure gender-sensitive care, and combat the societal stigma that may deter women from seeking help.
  • Improve Data Collection and Monitoring: Enhance the monitoring of public health impacts and gather accurate and up-to-date data on drug use and treatment outcomes. This will enable policymakers and healthcare providers to make informed decisions and identify gaps in services, allowing for targeted interventions and resource allocation.
  • Strengthen International Cooperation: Foster international cooperation and collaboration to combat drug trafficking, as it plays a significant role in perpetuating drug-related disorders and hindering access to treatment
  • Promote Harm Reduction Strategies: Implement and expand harm reduction strategies such as needle and syringe programs, opioid substitution therapy, and overdose prevention initiatives. These strategies aim to minimize the negative consequences of drug use and provide support and care to individuals who are unable or unwilling to access treatment.
  • Address Social and Economic Inequalities: Recognize and address the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to drug challenges. Efforts should focus on reducing poverty, improving education, providing employment opportunities, and addressing social inequalities.


  • The World Drug Report 2023 serves as a stark reminder of the escalating drug use crisis and the urgent need for robust interventions. The report’s findings highlight the increasing number of people who inject drugs, the rise in drug-related disorders, and the detrimental effects of drug trafficking on the environment and society. It is crucial that public health, prevention efforts, and accessible treatment services take center stage in global agendas to ensure that no one is left behind.

Also read:

[ORF] Narco-Terrorism in India


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