UN-Backed Report is Concerned Over the Link Between Social Media and Drug Use

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Social media platforms are offering new opportunities to buy cannabis and are glamourizing negative behavior related to drugs, revealing a report calling on governments to address such platforms’ links with illicit drugs.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an independent and UN-backed body, in its Annual Report 2021 released on Thursday, addressed the increasing evidence of a link between exposure to social media and drug use.

This development is particularly important for young people, who are the main users of social media platforms and an age group with high rates of drug use, it said.

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“Social media not only promotes negative behavior related to drug use by glamourising those behaviours, but also offer users the opportunity to buy cannabis, prescription pain killers and other controlled substances on many platforms,” said Jagjit Pavadia, INCB President, in a statement.

Besides, calling on governments to take a more active role in regulating these platforms, the report also asked the private sector to moderate and self-regulate their platforms and limit the advertisement and promotion of the non-medical use of drugs.

Even as several countries “have decriminalised and depenalised the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, it has been interpreted by many entities as the legalisation of the non-medical use of cannabis,” Pavadia added.

The INCB emphasized that balanced and proportionate responses to drug-related offenses should be a guiding principle in criminal justice matters with respect for human rights and public welfare.

The report also raises concern about regional disparities in the availability of pain relief medication.

It noted that nearly all consumption of opioid analgesics is concentrated in the developed countries of Europe and North America while consumption in other regions of the world is often insufficient, and the medical needs of those populations cannot be met.

The world narcotics control board urges governments to do more to make medications sufficiently available and ask countries with greater resources to help countries with fewer resources in ensuring access to narcotic drugs.

The report called for “special attention and scrutiny” of illicit financial flows generated from drug trafficking, which can have a wide negative impact on society, diverting money from the economy, leading to social and political instability.

The report also noted that although new technologies like digital currencies, mobile payments, and e-wallet services have made the international transfer of funds easier and faster, they have anonymized users and processes thereby creating new avenues for illicit financial flows.

The Board warns that organized criminal groups have exploited these new technologies to hide the origins of illegal funds and maximize profits.

To counter these, INCB calls on governments to address all stages of drug trafficking — from production and cultivation to sale and concealment of illegal profits.

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