Side event: A roadmap for improving drug statistics

Organised by the Government of Australia and the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch.

“The outcome document of the thirtieth special session of the General Assembly in April 2016, entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem” promotes the value of reliable, comparable and quality statistics across all drugs domains. The UNGASS outcome document indicates a number of areas where statistical work is needed, for example:

…Promote and improve the systematic collection of information and gathering of evidence as well as the sharing, at the national and international levels, of reliable and comparable data on drug use and epidemiology, including on social, economic and other risk factors, and promote, as appropriate…

…Improve the availability and quality of statistical information and analysis of illicit drug cultivation, production and manufacturing, drug trafficking, money laundering and illicit financial flows…

This side event will discuss some valuable experiences to improve measurement of drugs and drug use at country level; furthermore, a comprehensive roadmap to address challenges affecting availability and quality of statistical data on drug and drug use will be presented.”

Enrico Bisogno (RAB, UNODC)

Welcome and thank you for attending this side event. Introduction of speakers.

Chris Killick-Moran (Acting Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch, Department of Health, Australia)

Thank you, it is a pleasure to be speaking on behalf of Australia. I hope to speak about some of the data reform activities that we are planning in Australia. I thank Dr Me and the UNODC for inviting me to speak today.

Data collection is a very difficult thing to do, in particular with illicit behaviour. In Australia, one of the things we are trying to overcome is the timeliness of our data collection. National Household Drug Survey is conducted every 3 years, reaches about 22 000 and measures standard demographic variables. It takes about 3 years to run the survey, process it, and publish the data. It is frustrating that this takes such a long timeframe. We are currently using data from 2013. We use the Illicit Drug Reporting System – which surveys injected drugs at least 6 times in the last year; and the Ecstasy Drug Reporting System – people that have used psychostimulants at least 6 times in the last year. These are conducted every year. We’ve started seeing an increase in methamphetamines in the last few years, which has come through these surveys. We’ve seen an increase in crystal methamphetamine use, despite amphetamine use not increasing as much. We’ve started looking at other data from hospitals and police data. If people attend hospital, the drug use data may appear if that is not the reason that one is attending hospital.

How do we attempt to synthesise all of that data as a whole, to find trends in the data? University-based research centres may be able to bring all of these data collection together, draw out emerging trends, and inform us and other research institutes. What are we going to do with this data – what is the point of collecting it unless we improve health outcomes, or reduce amount of drugs used.

Interesting data:

  • Harms associated with drug use are not evenly distributed throughout communities – may have different prevalence of drug using behaviour, may be exposed to more harms related to how they are using different drugs
  • Big predictor of higher rates of drug use – unemployment or underemployment – they 2.4 times more likely to use – 1.8 times more likely to use ecstasy, 1.6 times more likely to use cannabis – this amplifies their income stability
  • Drug use may present a barrier to find work – which shows we need to work with employment services
  • Our Indigenous population makes up 3-4% of population – but 1.9 times more likely to use cannabis, 1.6 times more likely to use methamphetamine
  • Symptom of alienation in society, and effects their options in integrating in general society. There are deeper cultural issues
  • Gender diverse population, injecting drug users also greatly affected

Mario Palma (Vice President of Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia (INEGI), Mexico)

Thank you.

I’d like to present the National Statistical Offices (NSO) data – data collection has to be relevant and useful, and used in implementation in policy.

Drugs present a wide range of social and economic aspects in society, and are related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular, Goal 3.

INEGI – take 5 different projects to measure drugs – National surveys –

  • ENVIPE – Household survey – main objective to find out a level of crime which is not reported – what do you see on the streets in your neighbourhood? 44% of people say they see people in their neighbourhood consume drugs
  • ENSU – Perception survey
  • ECOPRED – Prevention survey – 12 to 20 years old – Do your friends consume drugs/do you consume drugs/do you friends offer you drugs? – 6.9% have consumed drugs
  • ENVE – perception of drugs in business neighbourhood – biannual
  • CNPJE – Concerning drug dealing in small quantities – relatively new – reporting rates have increased, rather than crime rate increasing. Up to 5 grams of marijuana is not a crime – over that amount is. Between 5-50grams is trafficking. The number of people going to prison is very high. Adults are specialising in dealing a wider range of drugs – teenagers are dealing mostly cannabis.
  • It is difficult to measure as it is illegal.

What’s next? A household survey on drug consumption – this year there will be a pilot survey. Drugs are not particularly national – they cross borders. Countries need to work together for data collection; and the two commissions (drugs and crime) need to collaborate.

Thank you very much – very happy to answer questions at the end.

Angela Me (Chief, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Good afternoon – from the national perspective to the global perspective. Data collection is useful for programs and policies.

Has the size of the drug problem changed? Does the drug problem have a different impact on different sub-population groups? Different communities have different needs – drug policy is not one size fits all. We need to think about the different needs of women and men in terms of treatment, and of indigenous populations. How will we manage treatment of ageing heroin using populations?

Do we have the data at the global level to interpret these questions? Looking at the World Drug Report 2016, we cannot precisely answer this question. Each country has different surveys. There is a big iceberg that is only estimated through household surveys. There are two countries in the world that estimate the amount of drug users – the US and the UK. This is the best estimate we can show the world – but each year we get more data from more countries. Data at the national level feeds data at the global level. Not one single country can understand the drug population in isolation. Statistics is the key element of reviewing the drug problem.

Annual Report Questionnaire (ANQ) – we don’t get data from all member states.

Trends in data availability – we have a lot more information about supply, from seizure data. The number of countries providing information on drug use is very low, compared to countries providing data on seizures. Regions provide different amounts of data.

The drugs market continues to evolve – which makes it difficult for us. UNGASS highlighted the needs for renewed data, statistics, information systems, and sharing of data collection.

UNODC 2017 – drug statistics is on the agenda. Roadmap – ideally, what data would we like to have?

Consultative process: WHO, WCO, UNAIDS, EMCDDA, CICAD/OAS.

Drug use is particularly underestimated, especially in countries where stigma is so high. We can use wastewater analyses.

Priority areas for a roadmap:

  • Methodological developments – focus on underreporting
  • Capacity building – including early warning systems for NPS
  • International data collection and coordination

Guidelines need to be provided to member states to make data collation easier. How can we provide guidelines to improve these information systems?

UN Statistical Commission – Reviewed and recognised that statistical merits of the roadmap. Thank you.

Dr Me: We have a few minutes for questions.

Drug Policy Futures (NGOs) about money and policy making – financial limitations. For policy makers – where budgets for public health are declining – how can we fund data collection, in particular in Mexico?

Palma: It is considered a priority in Mexico – we have the pilot survey this year. I am confident that we can fund it in Mexico.

Italian Parliament – How accurate is the World Drug Report 2016? A we talking about estimates of estimates?

Dr Me: It is as accurate as it can get, and we are trying to be as transparent as we can. One year, we didn’t want publish point estimate, we publish only interval data.

To Chris – you did not mention wastewater analysis in Australia – please elaborate.

Killick-Moran: We have just signed of on a data integration project, to triangulate custodial intake, other data, and wastewater data collection. Wastewater data collection in Australia is still relatively new.

From Russian Permanent Mission – I wonder whether this outcome will be officially mentioned in the plenary?

Dr Me: On the statistical commission – a video will be shown under the ECOSOC section in the plenary.

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