Evidence shows that these platforms offer new opportunities to buy illicit substances and glamorise negative behaviour, reveals a new study by the narcotics board. It also says drug money holds back development and fuels violence, poverty, inequality and organised crime
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned that there is growing evidence of a link between exposure to social media and illicit drug use, especially among young people, who are the main users of social media and are among an age group with high rates of drug use.
In its annual report for 2021, the INCB, an independent UN-backed body, explains that these platforms glorify negative behaviours related to the use of controlled narcotics by presenting an attractive and glamorous image of those who engage in such behaviours.
In addition, social media offers consumers the opportunity to purchase cannabis, prescription painkillers and other controlled substances on many platforms, and allows criminals to exploit many tools, such as digital currencies, mobile payments and e-wallet services, which facilitate and expedite the international transfer of money and allow them to conceal the origin of illegal funds and maximise profits.
Faced with this situation, the Board calls on governments to regulate these platforms and urges the private sector to moderate and self-regulate their digital media and limit advertising, and the promotion of non-medical drug use.
“It is imperative to address this situation, not only for the sake of current users but also for the generations to come, who will use social media in their daily lives,” said INCB President Jagjit Pavadia.
Holding back development
The study analyses illicit financial flows related to drug trafficking and highlight the negative consequences they have on societies and development by fuelling corruption, violence, poverty and inequality, and fostering organised crime.
It argues that these flows reallocate resources from initiatives to reduce poverty and promote social and economic development to combat drug trafficking, which in turn weakens good governance and exacerbates inequality.
Millions of dollars are lost to organised criminal groups each year, and illicit capital outflows are even more damaging to developing countries that need funds to boost economic growth.
Illicit financial flows also divert resources needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, drain public resources and undermine efforts to mobilise development assistance.
To counter the negative effects and human cost of the drug trade, the Board recommends that governments address all stages of drug trafficking, from production and cultivation to the sale and laundering of illegal proceeds, and calls on them to share information on organised crime at the international level.
“Illicit financial flows do not recognise borders or nationalities, so we need to act collectively,” she stressed.
An 18-year-old girl sleeps with her newborn baby at a shelter for drug-addicted women in Kyrgyzstan. © UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani
An 18-year-old girl sleeps with her newborn baby at a shelter for drug-addicted women in Kyrgyzstan.
With regard to the decriminalisation of cannabis in many countries, the INCB stressed that this is a cause for concern because it has been interpreted by many as legalising the non-medical use of cannabis.
In this regard, it emphasised the need for a collective understanding of the concepts of legalisation, decriminalisation and decriminalisation in accordance with the drug control conventions, and stressed the importance of a balanced and proportionate response to drug-related crime, while maintaining respect for human rights and public welfare.
“The legalisation of the non-medical use of cannabis is in contravention of the drug control conventions,” said Jagjit Pavadia.