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

Implementing Organization
Research and Trends Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

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. 

Accomplishments to Date

UNODC has supported countries in different continents to collect data on drug use and its consequences through training and direct support to carry out national population-based surveys of adult and young populations. The use of direct questions to collect information on  drug use is not effective in countries where drug use is highly stigmatized so over the years UNODC has developed indirect methodology to overcome underreporting. See for instance the report on drug use survey on Nigeria Drug_use_in_Nigeria_2018.pdf ( 

Project Activities

The initiative will include compiling a manual/guidelines on “international standards in implementing statistical methods to collect data on drug use and its health consequences  based on good practices in different countries” outlining the indirect methods and other studies that can complement the information; an “Expert Group Meeting” for consultation with national experts to document good practices in drug use surveys in the context of estimating the extent and patterns of use of synthetic drugs, in particular with indirect methods; two sub-regional trainings in West and Central Africa and Southern Africa and three in South West Asia, Middle East and East and Southeast Asia; mentoring of 4 national teams in implementing the surveys based on the guidelines. 

Global Level Outcomes

An improved knowledge base on the extent of synthetics drug use in countries/regions from where such information has been scarce, with comparable methodology; improving the global understanding of the extent of the problem of synthetic drugs and addressing it through the global debate around those and in supporting countries with implementation of evidence based responses. 

National Level Outcomes

Improved national capacity to regularly collect data on drug sue and its health consequences  as part of a national drug use monitoring system, evidence base available on the extent and patterns of use of different synthetic drugs, as well as of other drugs at the national level, enabling national policies makers better informed of the situation and practitioners implementing programmes based on the evidence 

Current State Participants

UNODC is currently supporting Pakistan and Jordan among others in implementing drug use surveys.  


Kamran Niaz, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, UNODC, kamran [dot] niaz [at] un [dot] org (kamran[dot]niaz[at]un[dot]org)