Initiatives for Sub-Working Group 2.1 - Data Collection, Analysis, and Trends Including Early Warning

Monitoring of Illicit Drug Markets in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Countries

The objective of the illicit drug markets program is to update and improve information on the production, trafficking, and sale of illicit drugs in the LAC region. The emergence of synthetic drugs has created a rapidly changing drug supply market where precursors, manufacturing, trafficking, and sales (including online sales) are concerned. A lack of data on these topics is an important gap that this program aims to fill.


The benefits of using the Drug Treatment Surveillance System

The drug treatment surveillance system's objective is to gather data in a standardized way on persons receiving care from drug treatment service providers in participating member states during each calendar year. More specifically, the system allows countries to build a profile of the demographic characteristics, drug-using behaviors, and treatment history of clients, establish trends, and identify risk factors for substance use disorders. Clients’ information remains completely anonymous.


The use of Laboratory Improvement Programs to enhance Early Warning Systems.

This program aims to form a network of forensic laboratories with the capacity to analyze and screen for new and emerging drugs, including synthetic opioids, new psychoactive substances, and other synthetic drugs. This network will facilitate:

  • The creation of an inventory of forensic laboratories in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
  • The creation of a directory of nationally managed or affiliated forensic laboratories in LAC countries.
  • Information sharing among laboratories, with national early warning systems (EWS), and with the Early Warning System of the Americas (SATA, by its Spanish language acronym)
  • The provision of training and technical support from those countries with more developed laboratories to those with less analytical capacity.
  • The exchange of experiences and best practices, the exchange of chemical standards, legislation, and the training of professional teams in updated techniques for analyzing new drugs.
  • The creation of a mechanism for cross-border analysis of drug samples.

World Drug Report chapters on synthetic drug emerging issues

The proposed initiative aims at producing a series of chapters on synthetic drugs in the World Drug Report (WDR), the annual flagship publication of the UN on drugs. Following up on the chapter published in WDR 2023 on the synthetic drugs phenomenon, which looked at cross sectional issues in relation to synthetic drug production, trafficking and markets, the series will focus on emerging threats in synthetic drug demand and supply dynamics across the world. Each edition could for example include an analysis of emerging threats and impacts in a specific region and/or have a topical focus.


Increase public health data collection using Web based ASSIST Tool

  • To facilitate synergy in public health data collection and processing by strengthening data processes under the existing national government health information system as supported by the South African National AIDS Council’s comprehensive HIV/TB data dashboard and Situation Room, specifically geared to identify new trends, including those of synthetic drugs.
  • To facilitate meaningful overlay of Substance use, risk and substance use disorder data with HIV, TB, and other public health data across the health and social sectors.
  • To overlay public health data with census and other population data to improve characterization of communities for improved resource distribution. 
  • To create a platform for analysis and interpretation of Data Core data to support policy review/development and strategic planning at local, provincial, and national level.

Increase implementation of Wastewater Analysis in Emerging Drug Markets

The proposed initiative seeks to generate guidelines relevant to implementing wastewater analysis (WWA) in emerging drug markets. Presently, wastewater analysis is a useful tool in assessing trends in drug consumption in local municipal markets. However, wastewater has so far only been used with regularity to detect changes in drug consumption patterns in Europe and Australia. Other countries have employed WWA sporadically. Challenges as to the limitations of employing WWA more regularly have not been catalogued with an eye to overcoming implementation challenges. This multi-year project seeks to analyze the barriers to implementing WWA in emerging markets and build best practices, learned from regions and countries that have extensive experience with WWA, for countries interested in undertaking WWA, either regularly or on an ad-hoc basis. The project will study the implementation challenges in various interested countries (e.g., logistic, financial, legal). It will then engage with relevant researchers and policy groups implementing WWA to establish and disseminate relevant best practices or strategies aimed at overcoming implementation barriers.


Understanding the value of illicit profits and money flows associated with synthetic drug trafficking

Although the market for synthetic drugs has been escalating and proliferating globally, no specific project has addressed yet what is the value of the proceeds from this diverse drug market. The proposed initiative aims at producing estimates of illicit profits and money flows for selected routes of synthetic drug trafficking, following up on the implementation of the conceptual framework for the statistical measurement of drug-related money flows in different pilot countries.


Learning about the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ)

The main goal of the program is to hold regional and global training and annual meetings for ARQ Focal Points, jointly between UNODC and relevant regional organizations. Ideally, 5 regional meetings workshops would be held: Americas, Europe, Africa, West and Central Asia, and South, Southeast, East Asia and the Pacific. In addition, a global meeting will be held with subsets of countries representing each of the regions. These meetings will focus on: a) providing Focal Points with training on how to report data to the ARQ, particularly in relation to synthetic drugs; b) working closely with countries inputting data into the ARQ, c) working closely with regional organizations to streamline data collections taking place in teach region and promote data sharing, d) encourage exchange of information and best practices between countries with relation to the collection of synthetic drugs data. 


Maximizing the use of the Drugs Monitoring Platform (DMP) to highlight synthetic drug production in South-East and South Asia

The main goal of the program is to leverage the use of an existing tool, the DMP, to monitor national, regional and global trends in synthetic drugs trafficking, and expand to other types of data such as production (detection of clandestine laboratories). The program will aim at maximize the coverage and use of the platform in relation to synthetic drugs, starting from ensuring full coverage in South East and South Asia, while also improving data available at the national level through capacity building programs. It will also aim at creating regional and sub-regional a communities of practice of DMP users that can facilitate exchange of information and best practices.


The Sentinel Program: Training and Equipping Forensic Drug Testing Labs to Accurately Identify Synthetics, Unknown Substances, and Complex Drug Mixtures to Better Understand Drug Epidemics

Colombo Plan trainers provide forensic drug testing labs with peer reviewed and internationally recognized advanced methods using chromatography mass spectrometry techniques to better detect emerging synthetics, unknown substances, and complex drug mixtures, with provision of state-of-the-art drug LCMSMS testing instruments, professional reference standards, and follow-up technical assistance. 


Strengthening Research and Data Collection for Drug Demand Reduction Interventions in African Union Member States

The Pan African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (PAENDU) was established in 2015 with the support of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), US State Department, in response to lack of data to inform the review of legislative, policy and operational and responses to public health challenges due to increased trafficking, production and use of various drugs including New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and others not subject to international regulations. PAENDU aims to address the lack of harmonized and reliable drug use data by promoting systematic data collection, analysis, and reporting through connecting national drug epidemiological networks on one platform 


Drug information networks, DINs, for monitoring traditional, synthetic, and other emerging drugs.

  • The objective of this program is to create or strengthen drug information networks (DINs) for long-term monitoring of the demand and supply of illicit drugs, including synthetic drugs and other emerging drugs in Latin American and Caribbean countries. 
  • To this end, technical assistance will be provided through virtual and in-person training focused on developing national DINs, support for implementing standard CICAD indicators for DINs, and capacity building for monitoring synthetic and other emerging drugs. 

Drug Use Surveys in Latin America and the Caribbean [LAC] Countries

The main of this program is to update existing drug-use data to inform policy and programs. The program consists of generating updated and comparable information on drug use, demand, and supply indicators, based on the application of surveys using the CICAD standardized methodology (known by its Spanish language acronym SIDUC), among the general population between 12 and 65 years of age, high school students, university students, prisoners, and university students in participating countries in Latin American and Caribbean with out-of-date data. This will make it possible to prepare hemispheric reports on the primary drug indicators in the Americas region. 


Development of international standards, training and mentoring on collecting data on drug use and its health consequences in countries where drug use is stigmatized and culturally sensitive

The proposed initiative aims at building the capacity of national institutions  in collecting data on drug use and its health consequences,  especially in countries where drug use as a behaviour is stigmatized and culturally sensitive, which in turn hinders estimating the extent of drug use through self-reported use of substances. Such capacity building initiative becomes much more important in the context of emerging and new synthetic drugs for which there is little or no information of the extent and pattern of their use in the general population as well as among special population groups in many countries.  This initiative will include producing a manual/guidelines on “international standards and good practices in implementing data collection methods such as population-based surveys on drug use and its consequences using direct and indirect methods” in countries where drug use is stigmatized as well as culturally sensitive, also bringing in use of different indirect methods and studies to triangulate the information on extent of drug use. A second component of the initiative will aim at building the capacity through regional and sub-regional training of national experts in implementing drug use surveys using the international standards.  
This overall initiative builds on UNODC support and experiences of supporting countries, including through technical support, in implementing drug use survey as well as surveys among youth population in a number of countries, particularly, in South West Asia, and West Africa. 


Synthetic Drug use Information Systems, for a Highly And Responsive Treatment Environment [SHARE]: A global community of practice for the development of drug information systems to inform the effective planning of national drug use disorder treatment and care systems #ShareFacts - #SaveLives

Synthetic Drug use Information Systems, for a Highly And Responsive Treatment Environment [SHARE] A global community of practice for the development of drug information systems to inform the effective planning of national drug use disorder treatment and care systems #ShareFacts - #SaveLives

Effective drug information systems can be a key source of information for the planning and development of evidence-based and needs-based drug use disorder treatment and care services and systems, especially also with a view to the emergence of synthetic drugs and changing drug use patterns in many parts of the world. 

The SHARE initiative will have a global and national level component. 

At the GLOBAL level, UNODC is suggesting the SHARE initiative to invite UN Member States to join a community of practice for mutual support and exchange of experiences on the development of national drug information and drug treatment systems in a building blocks approach, including early warning systems that allow for early responses to new synthetic drug challenges and consider information received from health and social services. Countries with more and less experience in drug-related data collection and drug information system will be invited to join this new community of practice and learn from each other. UNODC will encourage technology transfer around innovative, especially lower-cost data collection approaches with proven feasibility and explore their adaptation for lower resource settings (e.g. waste water analysis in places with functional sewage systems). 

At the NATIONAL level, building on the Lisbon Consensus  on drug information systems, the “SHARE initiative will enhance the local preparedness of countries for the increased emergence of synthetic drugs and be ready to use information from various sources for the adaptation of national drug use disorder treatment and care systems in line with changing drug use patterns. National level efforts to develop local drug information systems, will focus on capacity building and technical assistance for the implementation of selected Lisbon Consensus indicators, with a view to those with higher feasibility in lower resource settings as well as other innovative data collection tools that have been implemented successfully in countries without pre-existing drug information systems, eg. The UNODC/WHO facility survey  for substance use disorder treatment services. The combined application of quantitative and qualitative data collection strategies is recommended for different purposes.  

Suggested initial Lisbon Consensus indicators for which data collection can be initially considered a priority in the framework of the SHARE initiative, will include but not necessarily be limited to 

  • Drug consumption among the youth population 
  • Drug consumption among special or vulnerable populations 
  • High-risk drug consumption 
  • Service utilization 

Furthermore, a number of newly developed tools will be made available to programme countries, such as the UNODC/WHO Facility survey for substance use disorder treatment services . The facility survey has proven to have a good feasibility even in countries without prior drug information systems and limited available information on drug use and drug treatment service provision. UNODC has established a possibility to implement the facility survey online, in cooperation with UNODC’s Drug Monitoring Platform. Rapid assessments on the situation with regard to drug use, drug dependence and available services can be an initial step to understand local drug use patterns and services available as well. UNODC has conducted such in multiple countries and has expanded such rapid assessments now to humanitarian settings and situations of displacement with very limited epidemiological or routine data available. Tools developed under UNODC’s Global Assessment Programme (GAP) are furthermore available to support local data collection as part of more institutional efforts to develop national drug information systems. 

The below gives an example of the practical relevance of various data collection efforts under consideration for SHARE for the development of national prevention and treatment responses. 

  • School surveys: Implementation of effective prevention and treatment initiatives for children in school age, guided by school survey results; e.g. Treatnet Family or family skills programmes 
  • Facility surveys: Introduction of quality assurance for drug use disorder treatment services based on facility survey data and Drug treatment system planning 
  • High risk drug consumption surveys: Implementation of strategies to reduce the negative health and social consequences of drug use, e.g. the UNODC/WHO Stop Overdose Safely (SOS) Initiative on community management of opioid overdose 
  • Service use information including Quality Assurance and Treatment Demand Indicator: Introduction of quality assurance for drug treatment systems based on treatment demand indicator information at consolidated level, Drug treatment system planning and Monitoring of changing drug use patterns for which people are seeking treatment for 
  • Qualitative studies: Implementation of strategies for people using drugs based on a better understanding of their situation and needs 
  • Analysis of routine data from different settings (e.g. prisons, emergency rooms, police in addition to drug treatment services): Implementation of effective prevention and treatment initiatives in different settings, guided by the reporting of drug use, drug use disorders and overdose cases 
  • Network scale up:Indirect assessments of drug use prevalence for service planning 
  • Wastewater analysis: Using sampling and analysis of waters, wastewaters, soils and wastes 

Strengthening national and regional drug data collection capacity and reporting in the Pacific

The main objective of the proposed initiative is to improve drug-related (focusing on synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals) data generation and sharing capacity of Pacific island countries (PICs). The lack of data generated and shared by PICs is considerable compared to any other regions globally, and this poses particular challenges for policy and strategy development. This challenge is largely driven by a) an overall lack of data generation capacity, b) an absence of a national data focal points or coordination mechanisms that facilitate the exchange of data and information among relevant authorities, and c) the lack of a regional mechanism to share data and information among PICs. To this end, UNODC’s knowledge and experience in developing and managing a functioning regional database obtained over the last two decades in Southeast Asia will be utilized for this initiative.  


A Threat Assessment on Transnational Organized Crime on Synthetic Drugs in the Southern African Region

An in-depth understanding of the threats posed, and impact generated by Transnational Organized Crime related to the trafficking and use of synthetic drugs in the Southern Africa region to inform evidence-informed policy and public health interventions. 


In-depth capacity assessment of treatment systems for substance use disorders using the WHO Service Capacity Index for Substance Use Disorders [SCI-SUD]

In-depth assessment of capacity of treatment systems for substance use disorders using the methodology developed by WHO in the context of treatment coverage for substance use disorders (Service Capacity Index for Substance Use Disorders – SCI-SUD)  


Early Warning Systems on Drugs [EWS] in the Americas

The objective of this program is to improve the capacity of participating countries to detect, assess, and timely respond to emerging threats from synthetic drugs by providing training, technical assistance, and other support to develop or improve national early warning systems on drugs. In addition, this program will facilitate the information-sharing among countries by expanding and improving the Early Warning System of the Americas (known by its Spanish language acronym, SATA).  


Strengthen national early warning mechanisms on emerging synthetic drug-related threats

National early warning mechanisms allow countries to identify emerging synthetic drug-related threats and respond early on by taking appropriate action. This requires to set up a national coordination mechanism assessing a regular flow of reliable, scientific data e.g. from drug analysis and toxicology laboratories, law enforcement, and drug health services. The result will be alerts distributed to stakeholders which serve as the base for their responses to the identified threat.  
Examples are the emergence of drug-products laced with fentanyl, toxic adulterants, unusually high drug concentrations, new drug products, etc.  
UNODC provides tailored training for countries on how to set-up, operate and strengthen a national early warning mechanism building on reliable, high quality information from national institutions such as forensic laboratories. Key elements are the formation of a stakeholder group and a technical evaluation committee in charge of assessing information and communicating early warning messages to different audiences as well as capacity building for forensic laboratories to enhance the information they provide to the mechanism.  


Next Generation IDS- Ensuring efficient and effective data flows between Member States and INCB

Data provided by Governments on the manufacture, use and international trade on narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors used for medical and scientific purposes are stored in the International Drug Control System (IDS) which became operational in 2004. The data available through IDS contains historical and contemporary data on drugs dating back several decades and is information that is unique to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and not available through other sources. The submission of data from more than 150 Governments allows INCB to chart global trends, identify and report trade discrepancies and detect possible diversions of drugs intended for licit purposes into the illicit market.  

An upgrade to IDS, entitled Next Generation IDS, is currently underway to simplify the data reporting process for competent national authorities through a web-based platform. Other key features of Next Generation IDS include enhanced analysis tools, dashboards and visualizations. The upgrade will also result in deepened integration two other systems used by Governments to monitor international trade in drugs and precursors, I2ES and Pen Online/Pen Online Light. Next Gen IDS will be made available to Governments free of charge and technical assistance and training providing guidance, knowledge and skills in collecting, analysing and reporting statistics and other data on the implementation of the international drug control treaties will be provided by INCB. Ultimately, the system will enhance both Governments’ and INCB’s abilities to identify weaknesses in control mechanisms that may be exploited by traffickers or to identify anomalies in licit trade patterns that may serve as an early warning for threats facing the international community from diversions of controlled substances.