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Amphetamine-type stimulants increasingly becoming first choice drugs in East and South-East Asia according to new UNODC report



Bangkok (Thailand), 26 November 2010
- The UNODC Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme held a press conference today at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand to launch the "2010 Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs: Asia and the Pacific".

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) - in particular methamphetamine - are widely used in East and South-East Asia and now rank in the top three drugs of use in all countries in the region. In many East and Southeast Asian countries, ATS have become the primary drug threat, displacing traditionally used drugs such as heroin, opium or even cannabis.

The event was opened by Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific. "Amphetamine-type stimulants pose a growing threat to the region. According to our assessment, the manufacture, trafficking and use of ATS remain at high and worrying levels. We have seen how the ATS problem has expanded in the region. It now poses a serious challenge to law enforcement agencies because the essential chemicals used to produce it are easily sourced. Also, short supply chains from production to consumer make interdiction efforts difficult."

The report, presented by Deepika Naruka, the Global SMART Programme Regional Programme Coordinator, provides a consolidated review of the current developments with regard to the illicit manufacturing, trafficking and use of ATS in Asia and the Pacific. The study indicates that in recent years these drugs have become an increasingly widespread health and organized crime threat in Asia and the Pacific.


The annual report is the second regional situation assessment for East and South-East Asia developed under the UNODC Global SMART Programme. The report highlights the spread of ATS - a market which includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, methcathinone, and ecstasy-group substances, and one which generates enormous global revenues. The report also underscores the various challenges that ATS pose to law enforcement agencies and public health systems. The report provides detailed national reports on Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, and also provides regional overviews of East and South-East Asia, the Pacific Island States and Territories as well as South Asia.

Based on the data submitted for 2009, the report comes up with the following key emerging patterns and trends for East and South-East Asia:

  • ATS markets in the region are expanding
  • The manufacture of ATS is increasing
  • There has been a shift in the sourcing of the precursor chemicals necessary for the manufacture of ATS
  • Methamphetamine manufactured in Myanmar is spilling over to neighbouring countries
  • The injecting use of methamphetamine is increasing
  • ATS treatment services are lacking
  • Transnational Organized Crime activity in the region is increasing
  • Ketamine use and trafficking is a growing concern
  • The harvesting and disposal of safrole-rich oils is detrimental to the environment

Despite the rising use of ATS in the region, most drug treatment services are still aimed at users of heroin, opium and cannabis. "We've seen a consistent increase in the number of people seeking treatment for ATS use," said Gary Lewis. "The real problem is that drug treatment services for ATS users in most countries are under-resourced. Because of this they are unable to keep pace with the high demand."

In Cambodia and Japan for instance, at least 50 percent of drug users in the country's drug treatment centres receive treatment for methamphetamine use, while in the Philippines the figure is 59 percent. In Thailand, more than 4 out of every 5 drug users who received drug treatment in 2009 were treated for methamphetamine pill use.

The report aims to create better understanding of the ATS situation and to design appropriate scientific, evidence-based policies and programmes to respond to it. "The ATS problem in the region cannot be solved by one country alone," said Deepika Naruka, "but can only be solved if countries in the region come together to share information and cooperate to address the threats posed by these drugs."

The Global SMART Programme is currently engaging with the ten Association of South-East Asian Nations (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) and China, and has recently expanded to the Pacific and the Americas. The programme receives financial support from the Governments of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.