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Cocaine, heroin, cannabis… are harmful in different ways and have different effects, but the desire is always the same: to get high. To chase sadness away or increase euphoria, and break the norms of a society one perceives as hostile. Or simply the need to do something different, unconventional. To try the taste of the forbidden and of being a non-conformist. Usually it starts with a joint smoked in groups, with a syringe someone else gives you. Then comes the nightmare of addiction. Abstinence and pain, neuroses and tics when you cannot find yet another dose. Joy and excitement when the “pusher” comes. That of drugs is a private tragedy, which destroys thousands of lives and families, but also a global problem that can have a devastating impact on the environment.

Let us analyze one thing at a time. The latest UNODC (UN Office for Drugs and Crime) report shows a new upsurge of this phenomenon. And the powerful return of drugs related to the last three decades of the ‘900. Heroine is one of them. Today, about 29.6 million people use it. All of them – let us not forget this – risk death. Because this opiate, along with other derivatives belonging to the same family, is a true insult to health. Experts have described overdose cases in the United States as “epidemic”, but the situation has become worrying also in Europe, despite the 38% decline in its production last year. This revival is encouraged by the consumers of synthetic opioids used as sedatives or analgesics who buy these products illegally.

For a market that is being born again, there is also an expanding one. We are talking about cocaine, the drug of rich people. The demand knows no crisis, on the contrary, it grows proportionally to the growing number of new tycoons. Yeah, because if once, the millionaires were mostly concentrated in Europe and in the United States, today cocaine is spreading to other areas of the planet. In Asia, for example, in recent years cocaine consumption has more than tripled. The overall production, however, does not increase, actually it is declining. Today, about 18.8 million cocaine addicted in the world use 28.6 grams of “snowflake” a year against 36.6 grams consumed by 14 million people in 1998.

The situation with Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, and the like) is different. Considered a “soft drug”, it has been legalized in different parts of the world. The UN has warned that in the US, where the use of this substance is permitted, its consumption has increased along with assistance requests, hospitalizations, car crashes and people who die in them. In short, the axiom “if it is legal, recreational use decreases”, banned by anti-prohibitionists around the world, proves to be nonsense. According to data released by the United Nations in 2014, nearly 3.8 percent of the world population had used cannabis, a percentage largely unchanged since 1998, equivalent to about 186 million adults who consume this substance at least once a year.

But drugs do not have serious effects only on our body. The UN is concerned also about their impact on the environment. From illegal plantations to construction of airstrips or clandestine roads to the activities through which drug traffickers hide money laundering, all those things pass through deforestation. That is the case of Colombia, where according to estimations, 22,400 hectares of forests have disappeared every year between 2001 and 2014 to make way for cocaine plantations. Then, there are the chemicals used to produce cocaine and opiates that pollute the countryside, or the excessive use of water in some parts of Afghanistan. All those things are sacrificed on the altar of getting high.

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