See also:







on-going Expansion of vocational training and occupational therapy opportunities at the Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre (LAO/F13 sub-project)






on-going Reduce the spread of HIV harm associated with Injecting Drug Use amongst men and women in the Lao PDR: HAARP Country Flexible Program Lao PDR (LAO/K18)

Related Documents

The ATS threat to the Lao Youth (coming soon)

Drug Demand Reduction and HIV/AIDS Sub-programme Overview

Drug abuse Situation:

While it is suggested that the current trends in the drug market in the country comprise a number of illicit substances, opium and Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) remain the predominantly abused illicit substances.

Opium addiction has been on a steady decline since the opium ban of 2005 and the consequent eradication of the opium poppy to practically insignificant levels since. For instance, the total number of new opium addicts dropped from 11,200 in 2006 to 4,906 in 2008 - a 36% decrease. However, relapse rates in certain rural areas remain high, especially where opium is available.

ATS abuse on the other hand has been steadily increasing since the illicit drug first emerged in country some ten years ago, and it is suggested that the number of users went from insignificant levels in 2006 to approximately 35,000 to 40,000 users to date. The phenomena of ATS abuse in the Lao PDR initially begun in the urban centres, but it is now believed that the problem is spreading to rural areas as well. In addition, the country's youth are the ones mostly affected by ATS abuse. It is estimated that 1.4 million youth are the most vulnerable group at risk of abusing this substance.

As part of the national drug demand reduction policy and in order to address the worsening overall trend of ATS abuse in the Lao PDR, a number of treatment and rehabilitation centres have been established throughout the country. Through the efforts of UNODC and the support of donors like the USA (LENS) as well as the selection of government staff with more experience in counseling and social welfare, the quality of treatment and care has improved dramatically in the past years.

Injecting drug Use (IDU) and HIV/AIDS

Although Laos is considered a low HIV prevalence nation, there is a great risk of escalation. Drug users have been identified as one such group vulnerable to HIV infection, and thus the need to implement harm reduction measures is timely. With the increasing popularity of Amphetamine Type Stimulants ('yaba'), and the emergence of injecting drug use, the HIV situation in the Lao PDR is fragile.

There is some evidence of the emergence of IDU in some communities in border areas. However, there is no systematic collection of data relating to IDU and most reports are derived from sources such as police records and other community surveys. Currently, IDU appears to be fairly isolated and in small numbers but evidence suggests that the practice of injecting is on the increase. The injecting of heroin has been observed in border areas and cities since 2004. In a study carried out by Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), Centre for HIV and AIDS (CHAS), UNODC and Burnet Institute, IDU was reported in all border towns adjacent to the assessment sites of Lak Sao, Phongsali and Luang Namtha. In addition, the 2008 UNGASS country report also indicates that IDU is increasing in Lao PDR. At present, IDU is confined to small numbers of young heroin users and the switch from non-injecting to injecting has been largely attributed to the cost, purity and efficiency of administration. For older opium users, the transition is due to the increasing cost and scarcity of opium and the lack of effective treatment for opium dependence. An LCDC and UNODC IDU assessment carried out in 35 villages in three border areas indicated that 2.8% of the population 15 years old and above were using heroin and 4% of heroin users were injecting.