Colombia’s cocaine crop at record high, according to UN report

BOGOTA – Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, has set a new record high for the manufacture of the drug and the cultivation of coca leaf. According to a new report from the United Nations, coca leaf cultivation rose 13% from 2021 to 2022, while cocaine production increased 24% from 1,400 tons to 1,738 tons. These are the highest numbers since the UN started recording the data in 2001.

Coca crops now cover 568,000 acres of Colombia. Researchers say not only has the expansion in coca bush cultivation led to the sharp increase, but it’s also due to improvements in the process of conversion from coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride.

“In parallel, there has been a continuing growth in demand, with most regions showing steadily rising numbers of users over the past decade. Although these increases can be partly explained by population growth, there is also a rising prevalence of cocaine use,” the report reads.

Drug overdose deaths involving both cocaine and opioids have spiked over the past decade in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving both drugs was 5.9 per 100,000 deaths in 2021, more than seven times the rate in 2011 of 0.8 per 100,000. The UN report also notes that heavy users of cannabis are more likely to routinely abuse cocaine, although those who use methamphetamine are less likely to use cocaine.

The US Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the numbers a day after Colombia and Mexico’s presidents criticized the failed US-led “war on drugs.”

Mexico’s first leftist president, Gustavo Petro, also proposed an alliance among Latin American countries to shift the focus of drug trafficking from a “failed” militarized approach to a public health problem.