First, the drug market is now the second largest market in the world with an estimated turnover of 243 billion euros per year. Thus, if drug traffickers were a country, they would have the 21st world GDP just behind Sweden. Despite the repression, the UN estimates that only 42% of the world's cocaine production is seized (23% of that of heroin). According to the UNODC annual report, the production of drugs such as cocaine or opium is on the rise, with cocaine production increasing by 30% between 2011 and 2016. It should of course be noted that these figures are estimates, because the drug market is an opaque environment. Some economic studies include the drug market in the GDP, thus significantly increasing the calculation of national wealth, thus showing the economic importance of this sector.
Second, according to the World Drug Report of 2013, although the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine appears to be declining in some parts of the world, the abuse of prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances (NPS) is increasing. Sold as “legal highs” and “designer drugs”, NPS are proliferating at an unprecedented rate and posing unprecedented public health challenges. According to the report, the number of NPS reported to Unites Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes by Member States increased from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 by mid-2012, representing an increase of more than 50%. The number of NPS has, for the first time, exceeded the total number of substances under international control (234). As new harmful substances enter the drug market with unrelenting regularity, the international drug control system now has to deal with the speed and creativity of the NPS phenomenon. This problem is alarming - yet these drugs are legal. Sold freely, including on the internet, NPS are not tested to know if they are risk-free. They can therefore be much more dangerous than traditional drugs.
The drug market may be old, but it is more lucrative than ever and has been changing for several years. If the 1980s and 1990s were those of the advent of economic globalization, drug traffickers very quickly understood how globalization worked to use it for their fraudulent business. Moreover, the proliferation of conflict zones around the world has led to an even stronger demand and establishment of drugs in regions of the world affected by war and poverty where drugs seem to have become the only escape. Drugs have thus become a major public health problem that spares no one.