According to a UN report on Monday, the number of illicit drug users worldwide has considerably reduced and drug-related deaths are only a fraction of those caused by alcohol, tobacco or AIDS.
'Illicit drug use has been contained to less than 5.0 percent of the world adult population, as opposed to five or six times this proportion for people addicted to tobacco or alcohol,' UN anti-drugs tsar Antonio Maria Costa said.
'There are no more than 25 million problem drug users -- that's less than 0.5 percent of the world population,' said Costa, who heads the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. 'There are more people affected by AIDS.'
The number of deaths due to drugs was limited to 'perhaps 200,000 a year, namely one tenth of those killed by alcohol and one twentieth of those killed by tobacco,' the UNODC chief continued.
With the exception of Afghanistan, worldwide drug cultivation had been slashed.
Nevertheless, to move beyond simply containing the problem, more needed to be done, Costa said.
'Containing a problem is not the same as solving it,' he said. 'Despite the progress, we still have a long way to go to protect our societies from the health and security threats stemming from drugs.'
A multilateral approach was needed and a stronger focus on health, he said.
More funding was needed for development projects to give farmers an alternative to cannabis, coca and opium, he said.
'The eradication of poverty must go hand-in-hand with the eradication of the drug crops,' Costa said.