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Illegal Drug Trafficking Represents 8% of World Trade, Says U.N. Report


August 1997

Drug trafficking has grown to $400 billion-a-year worldwide, representing 8% of total global exports in 1995, according to a United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNIDCP) report released in June. The 332-page World Drug Report on the international illicit drug industry is the first attempt by the U.N. to detail the business (Christopher Wren, "U.N. Report Says Tens of Millions Use Illicit Drugs," New York Times, June 26, 1997, p. A12; Mark Porubcansky, "Drug trafficking equals 8 percent of all world trade, the U.N. reports," Philadelphia Inquirer, June 27, 1997, p. A7).

Nearly 140 million people (2.5% of the world's population) smoke marijuana and hashish, says the report. Thirteen million people use cocaine, 8 million use heroin, and 30 million use stimulants such as amphetamine. Illegal drugs are reported as a bigger business than all exports of automobiles, and about equal to the international textile trade.

The report also discusses law enforcement's attempts at drug seizure, and it estimates that worldwide, police only intercept a third of all cocaine and 10% to 15% of heroin. "Profits on a mere fraction of the drugs successfully trafficked can cover the costs of the lost cargo," the report said. Giorgio Giacomelli, director general of the International Drug Control Program, said, "The problem has assumed such a global nature that it cannot be dealt with by individual countries."

For a copy of the report, call United Nations Drug Control Programs - (212) 963-5634.