Stronger efforts are needed to prevent people slipping into drug abuse, says the International Narcotics Control Board
Vienna (Austria), 24 February 2010 - Society has to give urgent attention to preventing drug abuse, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board said today, underlining the need for more actions and commitment.
Measures to prevent and reduce drug abuse by people who are either not using or not seriously involved with drugs-so-called primary prevention-are the focus of the first chapter of the INCB Annual Report 2009, launched today in Vienna, Austria.
The Report highlights several good reasons for society to give concerted attention to preventing drug abuse. From an individual perspective, there is no doubt that a single experience of using drugs can result in unpredictable and serious consequences such as injury or overdose. From society's perspective, drug abuse exacts a significant economic toll due to increased law enforcement, social welfare, health care, and lost productivity costs. The most recent data from the World Health Organization indicate that close to 1 per cent of ill health in the world can be attributed to drug abuse, with that proportion increasing to 2.3 per cent in developed countries.
The Report notes that rates of drug abuse tend to be higher among teenagers and young adults. While in the past a young person who had not begun using drugs by the end of their adolescent years, was unlikely to begin at all, in a number of countries more cases of young adults using drugs for the first time are occurring now. Getting married and starting a family generally have the effect of reducing substance abuse but this is happening later in some societies. Another new trend is the increase in young women using drugs-the gap with the level of drug use by young men has narrowed substantially.
East and South-East Asia
After tremendous progress in the past, countries in the region faced setbacks in reducing illicit opium poppy cultivation in 2008, with a 3.3 per cent increase compared to the preceding year. Trafficking in methamphetamine and the illicit manufacture of MDMA ("ecstasy") also increased. For the first time in recent years, the illicit manufacture of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) was reported.
In China, new types of products containing mixtures of synthetic drugs were seized, for instance tablets consisting of methaqualone and ephedrine were seized in the region of Inner Mongolia. Mixtures of GHB, MDMA and ketamine in bottles labeled "traditional cough medicine" were seized in the region of Guangxi.
Drug traffickers are increasingly using social networking websites to recruit South-East Asian women to work as "mules". The targets are obviously single women between the ages of 20 and 30 without criminal records who are unemployed or work in clerical, sales and service jobs.
The illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse of ketamine, a substance not under international control, is becoming a major problem in many countries. In China, 44 laboratories manufacturing the drug were dismantled in 2007.
In 2008, most of the countries in East and South-East Asia continued to report seizures of methamphetamine.
In 2008, China seized 6.2 tons and the Philippines seized 855 kg of methamphetamine (compared with 369 kg in 2007), while Thailand seized 22 million tablets of methamphetamine in 2008, a significant increase over 2007, when 14 million tablets were seized.
Seizures of cannabis plants increased significantly in the Philippines (from 2.5 million in 2007 to about 4 million in 2008) as did seizures of cannabis (from 1.2 tons in 2007 to 3.7 tons in 2008).
Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea reported the seizure of the largest quantities of cannabis in recent years.
The smuggling of pharmaceutical preparations containing pseudoephedrine into New Zealand has been rising significantly. In 2008, the number of pseudoephedrine tablets seized was 13 times higher than in 2002. Apparently, most shipments are organized by Asian criminal groups based in New Zealand using Asian students and visitors as "receivers". China has emerged as a major source of pseudoephedrine tablets seized in the country while Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, among other countries in the region, have been used for transit.
In spite of closer regional cooperation to address drug control issues, the low rate of accession by States in Oceania to the international drug control treaties and the geographical proximity of the region to illicit drug manufacturing in South-East Asia make the region more vulnerable to drug trafficking. The Board again urges the Governments in the regions to become party to the international drug control treaties.
In its Report, INCB calls on all Governments to implement the Commission on Narcotic Drugs resolution 52/8 as soon as possible and to be vigilant about the worrying increase in "date-rape drug" abuse. The report also highlights the importance of cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry and calls on countries to solicit their support.