Home » Side Event: How can data better support international and national commitments to address the drug problem?

Side Event: How can data better support international and national commitments to address the drug problem?

Organised by the UNODC, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, the EU EMCDDA, the African Union Commission, and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organisation of American States.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu (UNODC)

Need to monitor existing and emerging issues in drug use. We need to streamline and improve methodological approaches. We need innovation in ways to transform data through user-friendly avenues.

Jane Marie Ong’olo (African Union)

Africa is a transit route and we have increasing challenges, lack of knowledge on extent of problem. Scarcity of treatment. African Union Epidemiology Project – to establish network on obtaining reliable data. Networks established in 15 countries (5 pre-existing). Established project in 2016, now we have first ever continent-wide epidemiological report for 2017. Preliminary results – number of facilities reporting giving data is not many yet – some countries have many facilities reporting (83 in Sth Africa), others have not many. 2017 we had more countries reporting. Data on patients admitted indicates types of centres that are reporting – it is starting to show some gaps. Nigeria – 50/50 outpatient and inpatient. We need to be doing more in terms of capacity building and training. Reporting is done by self or families. Number of drug related offences is massive – more than 292,000 arrested in Sth Africa. Moving forward – what are our major constraints:

  • Unavailability of data
  • Quality of data collected
  • Lack of qualified personnel
  • Lack of funding for research
  • Inconsistences in drug control policy

How to address them:

  • Get more partners engaged in provision of treatment services
  • Training and employments of qualified manpower
  • Continuous training of staff and emphasis on proper record keeping, sustaining modalities from Ministries and other bodies
  • Policy makers should be exposed to a greater understanding of the drug problem.

Paul Griffiths (EMCDDA) – European Perspective

25 years of reporting on drug use, has value at national and EU levels. We’re policy neutral in our approach, try to provide neutral evidence on what drug policy says and doesn’t say. We’ve seen capacity development and sharing of expertise, based work on national focus points. Monitoring central policy making frameworks. Helping to form common language, supports engagement at international level.

Lessons learnt in sustainability and utility: data can sometimes be disconnected from questions that need to be answered. We have a number of examples of interesting topics, but were unachievable – need to keep reality check in place. Need to send feedback to data providers – key partners in the process. Data needs to provide value. Collection tools need to be sensitive to national context. Have to ask same questions, but tailor to context to get right answer. Not all things are quantifiable. Sometimes more important to look at trends and emerging threats. If you do a bad estimation, it’s simply not worth doing. As situations change, you need to critically review your tools and methods – need to reflect if tool is still fit for purpose. Face these problems at all levels – world is changing in complex and dynamic ways. Drug policies have to address a much more complex regulatory space. Need to remain useful and relevant – drug information systems need to respond: need more timely in providing data, more agile in respect to new developments, more forward looking, integrate new tools and approaches. Starting to look at more acute than chronic drug problems. Looking at online surveys to reach more surveys. Drug checking data provides info on what people are actually using on the street, rather than what we think they’re using. Information systems need to be fit for purposes and reflect different constraints.

Marya Hynes (CICAD-OAS)

Focused entirely on Latin America and Caribbean. Trying to create common system on data collection. Using common indicators on drug use to make comparisons. We have no ability to obligate countries to share data in a timely way. Only 11 countries supply what we’d call trend data. Hard to track change over time – can’t say if it’s going up or going down. International burned of reporting sometimes overtaxes them – don’t want to overburden them. Need to find balance in national, regional, international data collection to help countries collect data they need for their own purposes and ours. If they can’t analyse their own drug situation, what value is it to our shared data. NPS situation changes rapidly – need to think of how to deal with it. Need to support countries in development of Early Warning Systems. Need more immediate changes. The more indicators the better to try balance national and international policies. How can we better work together as international organisations? Need to recognise what international commitments are for reporting. We work with countries that have >300 million and <300 thousand people. International and regional commitments – big problem is disconnect. What is best for countries to do nationally, without becoming so overwhelmed?

Hernan Epstein (UNODC)

‘Filing data needs through Drug Monitoring Platform’

Issues addressed:

  • Outdated info on drug seizures (focus on aggregate national data)
  • Availability of info on individual seizures
  • Info at the subnational level – important to regional level too
  • Early warning potential through emerging trafficking routes identification (visualisation tool)

Platform started in 2011 (Paris Pact Programme and Afghan Opiate Trade Project (AOTP) – an online tool for mapping seizures related to Afghan opiates. Today – online tool for collecting, monitoring and sharing drug-related data on a larger scale.

How is data collected?

  1. Government sources
  2. UNODC mandated data collection mechanisms
  3. Open source cross-checked with official record – from media news.

Looking forward:

  • Geo-system with real-time info, early warning potential
  • ‘Harvesting’ big data
  • Extending partnerships
  • Including indicators on drug demands e.g. treatment


Q: From Mexico. How have indicators evolved over time, how have you worked to ensure whether your data measures human rights indicators

Q: 70% data from governments – how do you measure how reliable this is?

Q: How do you work with other UN agencies in effort to incorporate data on achievements of SDGs with your drug policy?

A: (Epstein) These are all important issues – we need to keep updating our instruments and review current questionnaires. In terms of validation – each data point we use is looked at individually. With other UN agencies – we do this quite a bit but there is room for improvement – we try to share our data in constant dialogue.

A: (Hynes) For CICAD – drug consumption data has set of standard scientific protocols – e.g. data from prisons or treatment area. Have high confidence in quality of data. Due to review protocols at this moment. Some earlier protocols have questions that no longer make sense. Other types of data – a little less control. Countries don’t respond to us, we respond to them. We need to use official country data. If that’s what we are required to use, that’s what we have to use. We share data with other regional organisations and double check each other. Make sure that whatever we publish makes as much sense as possible.

A: (Griffiths) great questions. Overtime, our questions change. Need to develop different indicators. Need to constantly reflect on tools over time – drug related death data is difficult to report on as system is geared to reflect predominantly on heroin related deaths but now we have NPS problems.

A: (Ong’olo) new to this in Africa – still developing and reviewing indicators. Based on needs of countries and their ability to report. Linked to contextual drug problem – data needs to also reflect alcohol and cannabis data.

Vladimir Poznyak WHO: traditional approaches and key indicators are changing. We need new approaches and composite indicators, not only in consumption, need to look at proxy measures. Also need to pay more attention to increasing validity and reliability through capacity building, but how to use other methods to improve validity. What we know from vaccination programs – we can learn from this in this area.

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