Less opioids, more cannabis used in 2019: UN's drug control body INCB releases annual data on global narcotics production, use, trade, and 2021 needs

VIENNA, 14 April - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations (UN) body, released today the latest consolidated global data on narcotic drug production and use related to 2019. The INCB's publication 'Narcotic Drugs 2020' found that countries used lesser amounts of opiates for medical and scientific purposes than previously, while the use of cannabis for such purposes continued to rise in 2019.

The publication also celebrates the fact that 60 years ago, on 30 March 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was adopted in New York, and with that adoption, the international community successfully created and agreed on a single instrument that codified all previous international treaties, protocols and other agreements on narcotic drugs.

The 'Narcotic Drugs 2020' report presents data and analysis on the global production and use of narcotic drugs, which include opium, morphine, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cannabis among more than 136 internationally controlled substances.

Key findings: 

  • Globally, less opiates were used for pain management and other licit needs, while the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes continued to rise.
  • As a persistent issue of concern, availability of narcotic drugs varied significantly between countries and regions. Around 80 per cent of the world's population, mainly from less developed nations, consumed only 13 percent of the globally available morphine for pain management. Advance data for 2020 and estimates for 2021 project a slight increase in the demand for narcotic drugs. The use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes will likely rise in 2020 and 2021.
  • Global consumption of narcotic drugs - both of natural origin and synthetic - declined in 2019. In particular the consumption of fentanyl, the most widely used synthetic opioid, declined notably, as was the case with oxycodone and several other semi-synthetic opioids. The production and stocks of opium and related products increased, however consumption decreased significantly, signalling a possible phasing out of opium from the international market in the future.
  • The cultivation and production of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes has been on the rise over the past five years, reaching 468.3 tons of licit production in 2019. However, as manufacturing processes and yields are not standardized, some data are being clarified with the relevant Governments in order to ensure consistency. In addition, INCB is developing, together with State Parties, guidelines on cannabis cultivation and production for medical purposes, following the recent vote of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on the international scheduling of cannabis. Cannabis remains in the strictest international control group ( Schedule I)
  • In terms of trade, there was an overall balance in the supply of opiate raw materials and demand for opiates in 2019. In 2019, more morphine-rich opium poppy was cultivated than in 2018, and there was a decrease in the cultivation of the thebaine-rich variety. In 2020 and 2021, it is expected that more thebaine-rich opium poppy will be cultivated. The stocks of both varieties of raw materials and the opiates derived from them are sufficient to meet the needs as estimated by the countries for 2020 and 2021.

The 'Narcotic Drugs' report is published by INCB each year, and it accompanies the INCB's annual reports. 'Narcotic Drugs' covers a three-year period and is based on the actual data and estimates provided by countries and calculated by INCB. INCB has published such reports since 1968.

The report is available at the following link:

- Narcotic Drugs 2020

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