Review of the twenty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Representation at the session
Periodicity of sessions
Illicit traffic and regional co-operation to combat it
SUB-COMMISSION FOR THE NEAR AND MIDDLE EAST
Ad hoc COMMITTEE FOR THE FAR EAST REGION
REGIONAL CO-OPERATION IN SOUTH AMERICA
Abuse of drugs (drug addiction)
Convention on Psycbotropic Substances
Technical co-operation in drug abuse control
United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control
Programme of work and priorities
Changes in the schedules of substances subject to control
Reports of the International Narcotics Control Board
Work of the World Health Organization
Publications of the Division of Narcotic Drugs
Pages: 41 to 50
Creation Date: 1973/01/01
At the presiding table, from left to right: Mr. S. P. Sotiroff, Assistant to the Director, U.N. Narcotics Division; Dr. Sten Martens, Director, U.N. Narcotics Division; Mr. Vittorio Winspeare-Guicciardi, Director-General U.N. Office at Geneva; Mr. John E. Ingersoll (United States), Chairman of the Session; and Dr. Istvan Bayer, Secretary.
The twenty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was held at Geneva from 22 January to 9 February 1973. In view of the Enonomic and Social Council's decision that the Commission should ordinarily meet every other year instead of every year, this was its first meeting since its twenty-fourth session in October 1971.
The agenda of the twenty-fifth session included a review of the work of the United Nations, the International Narcotics Control Board and the specialized agencies, especially the World Health Organization, in the field of drug control; implementation of the international treaties on drug control, including any action which may have to be taken under them; and the problems raised by illicit traffic and the abuse of drugs. These subjects form the basis of the Commission's terms of reference; in addition, the Commission dealt with two exceptionnal matters connected with the new measures taken to adapt international action to the realities of modern life: the coming into force of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control. Lastly, the Commission considered its programme of work and future priorities.
To mark the important milestone represented by the Commission's twenty-fifth session, the representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. V. Winspeare-Guiccardi, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, commented on some aspects of the Commission's work and achievements during more than a quarter of a century. The Commission's activities had been characterized by continuity and evolution. Since the time of the League of Nations, there had been a constant effort to find ways and means of restricting the use of dangerous drugs to legitimate purposes. The evolution which had taken place had been striking: the membership of the Commission had doubled and all regions of the world were now represented. The number of drugs with which it was concerned had multiplied. These changes implied, unfortunately, that drug abuse now presented a risk to all countries. The Commission had not, however, merely grown: the scope of its activities had become more comprehensive, and the participation of a number of United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations reflected the multidisciplinary nature of the work to be done. Action against drug abuse had always included prevention, treatment and law enforcement, but it had gradually become clear that the problem was first and foremost a social problem with, of course, an important public health aspect. The Commission's legislative work had included the preparation of a number of international instruments, which had introduced new concepts such as aftercare, rehabilitation, social reintegration and education. The Commission was nevertheless aware that treaties, no matter how effective, were not sufficient to overcome difficulties of implementation, especially for the Governments of some developing countries, and it had drawn up a Plan for Concerted Action Against Drug Abuse and recommended the setting up of a Fund for Drug Abuse Control, a step which had been taken in 1971. In undertaking the enormous task of handling a programme encompassing scientific research, social measures, educational developments, treatment and training, the Commission had contracted a new responsibility, that of co-ordination to prevent dispersion of effort. The Director-General had pointed out, in conclusion, that the Commission, which was composed of representatives of industrialized and developing countries from all parts of the world, had invariably subordinated the abstractions of treaties to the human aspect and had achieved a balance of thought and action which might well be an example for the solution of other social and political problems.
Mr. John E. Ingersoll, the Chairman of the Commission, also referred to the Commission's activities relating to treaties and then went on to discuss international and regional co-operation. In view of the alarming rise in the number of human beings affected by drug abuse, further progress still was required, and he submitted a number of suggestions for the future work: ratification of the international treaties, better planning and execution of a global programme of drug abuse control, support for the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control, improvement of bilateral and regional co-operation, more intensive research, multilateral and bilateral assistance for countries determined to eliminate illegal narcotics production. In his view, drug abuse was not an insoluble problem and the Commission should dedicate itself to determining what needed to be done and to finding ways of doing it.
The following States members of the Commission were represented at the twenty-fifth session: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt (Arab Republic of), France, Germany (Federal Republic of), Hungary, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Yugoslavia.
The following States sent observers: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burma, Chad, China (People's Republic of), Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Ghana, Greece, Holy See, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Viet-Nam, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Uruguay.
The following States were also invited to send observers but were unable to respond to the invitation: Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic, United Republic of Tanzania, and Venezuela.
The following specialized agencies were represented at the session: World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was represented, as were the International Arab Narcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC). The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control also attented the session, as did representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Social Defence Research Institute (UNSDRI) and the United Nations Division of Social Affairs.
The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/INTERPOL), a non-governmental organization having a special agreement with the Economic and Social Council, was represented at the session.
In addition, the following non-governmental organizations in consultative status, category II, were represented: the International Conference of Catholic Charities (Caritas Internationalis), the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the World Young Women's Christian Association. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, a non-governmental organization on the Roster, was also represented.
At the Commission's invitation, the Chairman of the Group of Experts on Customs Questions affecting Transport of the Inland Transport Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe provided detailed information on the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention).
The Commission elected the following officers by acclamation: Mr. J. E. Ingersoll (United States of America): Chairman; Mr. C. Kirça (Turkey): First Vice-Chairman; Dr. B. Bolcs (Hungary): Second Vice-Chairman; Mr. F. Castro y Castro (Mexico): Rapporteur.
In considering the work of international and non-governmental organizations on drug problems, the Commission noted the increasing interest in drug abuse control being shown by a number of Governments and intergovernmental and international bodies as well as by the general public. It felt that the action which had been taken was encouraging and useful, but expressed the opinion that there was a risk of duplication, overlapping and even of waste, and that efforts should be better co-ordinated. The Commission decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution under which the Council, considering that action by Governments and international organs and organizations must be taken simultaneously on all fronts prevention of abuse, repression of (the illicit traffic, control of production, manufacture, distribution and consumption, development of training and education, scientific research, treatment and rehabilitation, that such multidisciplinary action called for a better co-ordination of all efforts and that it had not proved possible to achieve such co-ordination adequately during the past two years, as demonstrated by the increasing number of international meetings held on the subject, and having regard to the urgent need to improve the co-ordination of the measures taken on the subject so that the knowledge and experience gained could be widely disseminated and utilized in the best interests of all, would request the Secretary-General to attempt to solve the problem of co-ordination and to report on the subject.
Many representatives felt that the Commission could not fulfil its mandate if it met only biennially, as decided by the Economic and Social Council: the 196l Convention had been drafted on the assumption that the Commission would meet annually (in particular, the annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board was to be submitted to the Economic and Social Council " through the Commission, which may make such comments as it sees fit "); the work of the Commission was impaired by the two-year cycle, since some documents, relating in particular to the illicit traffic and to drug abuse, contained obsolete information; the Commission was the only international body dealing with illicit traffic on a world-wide basis and it could not fulfil its functions and take the necessary decisions if it was unable to follow variations in that traffic as closely as possible; the situation in regard to drug abuse was changing rapidly and could not be assessed on a two-year basis; lastly, the Plan for Concerted Action Against Drug Abuse and the operation of the Fund had to be followed with the closest attention and that was not possible with a two-year cycle. However, for practical reasons, the Commission decided to defer the study of the periodicity of its sessions but to recommend the Economic and Social Council to decide that, pending further study by the Commission of the question of holding its regular sessions annually, the Commission should hold a special session in 1974, if possible after February, in addition to its session scheduled for 1975.
The Commission concluded that the traffic was continuing to spread; new trafficking routes and methods of carriage were being used; many countries were involved, some of them having to deal with numerous well-organized networks; new traffickers were constantly entering the traffic and the ways in which drugs were moved were limited only by the imagination of the traffickers. The former distinction between producing and consuming countries had become blurred, since so many territories were now exploited simultaneously for the production, consumption and transit of drugs. The Commission concluded that while national legislation and controls continued to be of essential importance, international co-operation of various kinds had to play an increasingly important role. The importance of regional co-operation between law enforcement authorities was emphasized but the Commission also pointed out the need for innovations to be compatible with existing systems of liaison and for activities within a region to be co-ordinated to avoid duplication.
At its twenty-fourth session, the Commission set up an ad hoc Committee on Illicit Traffic in the Near and Middle East to study questions related to illicit drug traffic in that region in order to promote more effective co-operation and mutual assistance in the suppression of illicit traffic within, from and into the region. The Commission considered the report of the ad hoc Committee, paid a tribute to its constructive work, and discussed and endorsed its recommendations. With regard, however, to the recommendation concerning an investigation of the abuse of the TIR system of carnets by trucks smuggling drugs on international routes, the Commission decided to request the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe to arrange for the question to be studied by the Commission's Inland Transport Committee with the aid of experts with a good knowledge of the illicit traffic. It decided, subject to the authorization of the Economic and Social Council, to establish a sub-commission on illicit traffic in the Near and Middle East consisting of representatives of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Sweden to study the implementation of the ad hoc Committee's recommendations, to propose for this purpose supplementary recommendations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and to formulate any other recommendation it thought fit. The Commission recommended to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution authorizing the establishment of that sub-commission.
With the same aim of developing regional co-operation, the Commission decided to set up an ad hoc Committee to consider the desirability of establishing a sub-commission for the South-East Asia region, whose purpose would be to promote more effective co-operation and encourage mutual assistance in the suppression of illicit traffic within, from and into the region. The ad hoc Committee in question was set up and held a first meeting during the Commission's session; it was composed of representatives of the following countries: Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and the United Kingdom, it being understood that other countries could be added later.
The Commission noted with satisfaction that talks had begun in South America with a view to the establishment of a regional mechanism to fight against illicit traffic and drug abuse, and expressed the hope that appropriate relations might be established between that regional mechanism and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. These observations and wishes were embodied in a resolution of the Commission.
The Commission noted that in various parts of the world there seemed to be a trend towards multiple drug addiction among abusers. This trend was due partly to the availability of different types of drugs on the black market and partly to changes in the " taste " of the takers, who experimented with a great variety of legal and illegal drugs. One of the main characteristics of young abusers was the consumption of various drugs at the same time. The Commission noted that no social class was exempt from drug abuse and that this phenomenon could not be imputed to any cultural group alone or to any given social situation. Furthermore, drug abuse was not strictly a phenomenon associated with youth, nor could it be considered as a problem emanating from an illicit consumption of drugs alone; the excessive use of medically prescribed drugs had to be borne in mind. Lastly, it was necessary to differentiate between young people who had been drawn into drug-taking out of curiosity, without showing any addiction syndrome, and true addicts.
The Commission was informed that some countries were carrying out fundamental research, as well as studies, on drug abuse. The United Nations Social Defence Research Institute was also contemplating research on the problem, and in that connexion the Commission, considering that the submission of a detailed analysis of data on drug abuse would help it to carry out its responsibilities in that field more effectively and that the World Health Organization was the competent specialized agency to examine the epidemiological and medical aspects of the matter, adopted a resolution inviting that organization to assist the Commission by preparing timely analytical reports on the patterns and extent of drug abuse in order to enable the Commission to develop a more comprehensive view of the problem.
The Commission discussed the question of the advisability of methadone maintenance treatment without, however, reaching any firm conclusion on the subject.
The Commission declared its conviction that international action against illicit traffic and drug abuse could not be effective until the system of international narcotics control was supplemented by appropriate measures in the field of psychotropic substances. It accordingly adopted a resolution recommending Governments which were not yet parties to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances to ratify or accede to that instrument. With a view to preparing for the entry into force of the Convention, it considered the question of a single form for the annual reports to be submitted by Governments under the narcotics treaties and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The Commission decided that such a form should be prepared by the Division of Narcotic Drugs, in co-operation with other bodies such as INCB, WHO and ICPO/ INTERPOL, for priority consideration at the next session.
The Commission expressed its appreciation of the substantial progress which the United Nations Laboratory had achieved in its research programmes and of the work it had done. It particularly welcomed the international collaboration in this research by Governments: further scientists had been appointed by a number of countries and Governments had continued to provide the basic material, such as samples of cannabis and opium and cannabis seeds. One of the subjects which received priority attention was research on the components of cannabis, about which much new information has become available in recent years: it has been proved that cannabis contains a very large number of substances, the great majority of which have still to be isolated and characterized and whose pharmacological activity (or inactivity) remains to be determined. The Laboratory carried out research on the application of thin-layer and gas chromatography techniques to the study of cannabis components and arranged for the experimental cultivation of cannabis in various climatic regions to determine the effects of ecological conditions on the quantity and potency of the resin. The Commission stressed the importance of international co-operation in cannabis research and considered that an international symposium on cannabis should be organized by the United Nations.
The Laboratory provided assistance for specialist training in the form of twenty-one fellowships.
The Laboratory continued its investigations on identification tests for drugs of abuse and hoped it would be able to intensify that research in 1973, with financial support from the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control.
The Laboratory expanded its collection of scientific literature on narcotic and psychotropic substances and, through its retrieval system, was able to meet a large number of enquiries for technical and scientific information.
In view of the general decrease in the production of opium and the expansion of medical care throughout the world, there is a possibility of a shortage of codeine and it would be desirable to find other sources of that substance. A species of poppy, papaver bracteatum, yields thebaine, which can be converted into codeine by a chemical process. Research has been begun, with the financial support of the Fund, and a group of experts has met at Geneva to review present knowledge and prepare guidelines for research. Following the work of this group, experimental cultivation of the poppy will be undertaken in several countries; the Laboratory will distribute the seeds, which are to be supplied by the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Teheran. Research will also be carried out to establish methods for the determination of thebaine.
The Commission reviewed the technical co-operation activities organized by the Division of Narcotic Drugs in 1971 and 1972 and financed by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control. It examined the individual projects carried out by the Division as part of the progress of operations; it noted in particular that a consultative mission had visited Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia to establish liaison between the responsible authorities in those countries and the United Nations, obtain a more detailed knowledge of the situation regarding illicit traffic in the area, supply information to the competent authorities, give lectures to, and hold discussions with, groups of officials concerned with control measures, and explore the possibilities of increased international co-operation in Europe in order to suppress the movement of drugs of abuse more effectively.
A Central Training Unit was established by the Division of Narcotic Drugs and four training courses were organized at Geneva and in Paris for groups of fellows, and a course at Teheran for Iranian Customs officers.
During the year, a total of 65 fellowships were awarded for training in the Central Training Unit or for other studies.
A Plan for Concerted Action against Drug Abuse was prepared and considered by the Commission at its twenty-fourth session. On that basis, a new and shorter list of selected projects was prepared: 28 projects have been approved and are in operation, the Division being responsible for 15 of them. One of the most important is the Thailand programme, which includes projects for opium poppy crop substitution, action against the illicit traffic, treatment of addicts and the prevention of addiction through education. The crop substitution project is being implemented under the direction of the Division of Narcotic Drugs.
A number of country programmes are under study and preliminary discussions with the Governments of Burma, Afghanistan and Lebanon have reached a relatively advanced stage. Lebanon, in particular, has expressed the firm intention of eliminating the cultivation of cannabis but has emphasized the need for substantial aid from the international community.
The Commission did not discuss these projects in detail, although it commented on a number of them.
The Commission heard a statement by the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, who reviewed the work of the Fund. He emphasized the urgent need for additional contributions to finance projects which were ready to be implemented. He referred to the original Plan for Concerted Action, whose estimated cost had been roughly $95 million over a period of five years. The Fund was still convinced that action on that scale would be needed but had felt obliged to set its provisional aims somewhat lower and had drawn up a programme which would, on the one hand, meet the most urgent needs and, on the other, not exceed the resources which might reasonably be counted on for the first few years. This programme consists of 69 projects, and the estimated cost up to the end of 1973 was approximately $22 million. The Fund should already be actively at work in many countries with drug problems, such as Nepal, Laos, Bolivia and Peru, but it would be unwise to stimulate project proposals which could not be adequately implemented for lack of the necessary funds and would thus remain pending for long periods. The Fund will offer aid to these countries and to others when it can realistically foresee the possibility of doing so.
Total contributions from 21 Governments and some private sources have reached $4,544,275, and a number of representatives, in particular, the representatives of Japan, Spain and Argentina, announced pledges by their countries; the representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada assured the Commission that their Governments would be giving favourable consideration to future contributions to the Fund. [ *] The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General referred to the projects which had already been begun or for which preliminary discussions had taken place, in Burma and Afghanistan in particular.
A number of representatives of specialized agencies and the representative of ICPO/INTERPOL described the activities undertaken by their organizations with the Fund's financial assistance.
The Commission adopted a programme of work and priorities covering the following matters: illicit traffic; drug abuse (drug addiction); operations financed by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control; consideration of the report of the International Narcotics Control Board; adoption of a new form for annual reports; poppy cultivation under properly controlled conditions to meet world requirements of opium for medical and scientific purposes, and scientific research. If the next session were to be a special session in 1974, the periodicity of the Commission's sessions would be added to that list as a priority item. In the course of its discussions on this subject, the Commission decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution recommending Governments which had not already done so to ratify, or accede to, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and to ratify, or accede to, the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.
The Commission decided, in the performance of its functions under the international treaties, to add drotebanol to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention. It also decided to adopt a recommendation by the World Health Organization for an amendment to Schedule III of the Convention in respect of certain preparations of diphenoxylate, and to transfer nicodicodine from Schedule I to Schedule II. In accordance with the 1931 Convention and the 1948 Protocol, the Commission was informed of the World Health Organization's decision to place nicodicodine and its salts in Group II of the 1931 Convention, with the result that less strict control measures will be applicable to those substances.
* At the time the number goes to press, contributions from 27 countries, including Spain and Argentina, reached a total of $5,723,600, and the representative of Japan announced a pledge of $200,000.
The Commission considered the reports of INCB for 1971 and 1972, which were introduced by Sir Harry Greenfield, [ *] President of the Board. It decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution providing that the administrative arrangements for the Board should continue in force until the Council decided otherwise, and requesting the Secretary-General to continue to implement the arrangements, taking into account the character of the Board's functions and the importance of its full technical independence in the performance of its responsibilities.
The Commission was informed by the representative of WHO that, since its twenty-fourth session, WHO had continued and intensified its work on dependence-producing drugs: at its last three sessions the World Health Assembly had given major attention to the ways in which WHO could contribute to the solution of the serious public health and social problems associated with the non-medical use of certain dependence-producing drugs; it was observed that the organization had substantially increased the extent of its activities in this field at both the headquarters and the regional levels. Among WHO activities, reference was made to the organization of an Inter-Regional Seminar for National Programmes on Problems of Alcohol and Drug Dependence and a Conference on the Epidemiology of Drug Dependence.
The representative of WHO also informed the Commission that a Study Group on Youth and Drugs had met in October 1971 and that the WHO Regional Office for Europe had convened a Working Group on Health Education Programmes Concerning Drug Abuse in Young People at Hamburg in April 1972. The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, which had met in November 1972, had given particular attention to assessing ways in which the epidemiological approach could most usefully be applied to the study of problems in this field. In November 1971, WHO had convened a Scientific Group on Opiates and their Alternates for Pain and Cough Relief. The Group had concluded that " natural and semi-synthetic opiates may be considered not indispensable in the practice of modern medicine ", but being mindful of the fact that the replacement of natural and synthetic opiates in medical practice would raise many problems, it had not wished to express a more categorical conclusion. In regard to cannabis, WHO had convened a Scientific Group on the Use of Cannabis to assess existing knowledge of its effects and indicate where further research was needed; it had also supported a study on the effects of cannabis smoke on lung tissue and encouraged research on the effects on man of the long-term use of cannabis. As a consequence of initiatives taken by WHO, the Indian Medical Research Council had organized a seminar on the effects of long-term use of cannabis, which had been viewed as an important step towards implementing a definitive study of those effects in India.
* See Bulletin on Narcotics, XXIV, 2, p. 29, and p. 51 of this Bulletin.
In regard to khat, the Commission expressed the hope that in view of the social and economic consequences of its use, WHO would soon be able to undertake a definitive study of those aspects of the problem.
The Commission expressed its appreciation of the information provided on behalf of WHO and took note of the reports of the two Scientific Groups.
The Commissions considered the publications of the Division of Narcotic Drugs and observed that the Information Letter was extremely useful. Where the Bulletin on Narcotics was concerned, it considered that that publication was unquestionably useful not only to government departments but also to medical and social experts on addiction to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Emphasizing the importance it attached to this publication, the Commission requested the Secretary-General to ensure it the widest adequate circulation and to consider ways and means of extending the range of subjects dealt with on the abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
The Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its twenty-fifth session will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council at its spring session in April-May, 1973. It includes five resolutions adopted by the Commission and seven draft resolutions recommended for adoption by the Council. * Most of these regulations and draft resolutions have been discussed in this article.
* At the time the number goes to press, the Council had adopted all draft resolutions submitted to it by the Commission.