Can demand for illicit drugs be reduced?
The nature of the illicit drug market in relation to demand
Education and training
Concurrent law enforcement and drug demand reduction measures
Author: S. K. CHATTERJEE
Pages: 3 to 9
Creation Date: 1987/01/01
Given the technological advances in communications and logistics systems, as well as the enormous profits derived from illicit drug trafficking, it is most probable that traffickers will in the future attempt to increase both the illicit supply of and demand for drugs. It is also expected that traffickers will manage to produce new addiction-producing substances for the illicit market. In these circumstances, and given the fact that addicts have formed deeply rooted drug-using habits, it appears that the reduction of the illicit demand for drugs can only be achieved by concurrent implementation of both stringent drug law enforcement measures and effective programmes for the prevention of drug abuse and for the treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug-addicted persons.
Both the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by its 1972 Protocol  and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971  are landmarks in the history of international drug control. The system of determining world requirements of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes on the basis of estimates prepared by various countries and the follow-up by analysis of statistical returns showing the amounts consumed and stored by the same countries are sound methodologies  , pp. 21, 22). The system applies to almost all drug-producing and manufacturing countries.
The international drug control treaties provide for the gradual abolition of unnecessary production and manufacture by a shift from production and manufacture of drugs to other commodities  , pp. 30-33). The question of whether switching over from the production and manufacture of drugs to other commodities would be possible for a given country largely depends on two factors: the availability of appropriate opportunities and the willingness and ability of a given Government to do so. With respect to the first factor, the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control since its establishment in 1971 has been providing assistance to developing countries to reduce the illicit supply of, demand for and traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances  . Such assistance has particularly been provided to those countries where economic and social problems have been aggravated by illicit drug production or manufacture. The second factor is closely related to the available skill of the agricultural population and the prospects of producing a substitute commodity, including soil suitability and other agricultural conditions. The willingness of a given Government to switch over from production and manufacture of narcotic drugs entails a change in habits essentially bound up with the social and cultural tradition in a country  -  and the availability of appropriate law enforcement machinery. This problem affects not only the indigenous population but also tends to attract people from outside, especially those who are implicated in the drug-culture  -  . It is this aspect of the drug problem that will always give rise to illicit traffic in drugs. It is, therefore, not by law alone but by education and enlightenment of people also that this aspect of the problem may find a solution.
The price of and demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances on the illicit market do not necessarily correlate with each other. It appears that even a high street cost of a drug does not reduce the level of its demand and consumption. In the case of these unique commodities, however, the level of demand does not necessarily represent the level of actual consumption. A considerable part of the demand at a given point in time is made by illicit traffickers for ill-gotten gains. The availability of drugs usually exceeds the real demand for them; but their restricted supply by virtue of being prohibited products, except for medical and scientific purposes, creates a pent-up demand situation.
Drugs are objects of organized crimes, the proceeds of which lead to large profits. Despite the untiring efforts of the United Nations in the form of offering guidelines on both preventive and curative aspects of the problem, the enormous economic gains derived from illicit drug trafficking seem to provide an impetus to drug traffickers in various forms. Despite the fact that drugs are abundantly available on the illicit market, suppliers operate as its very important controlling factor because of the intervention of legal constraints. Demand for drugs, on the other hand, does not necessarily depend on their price. The usual market forces really do not operate in a drug market in their traditional way. Drug suppliers dominate markets even though available supplies generally surpass the total demand at a given point in time.
The need for a comprehensive educational and training programme, as a component of the total programme of abolition of drug abuse, was very strongly emphasized by the WHO Expert Committee on Mental Health  , p. 35). The Committee stressed that "any educational programme must give primary attention to local circumstances, with particular reference to the drugs.., used predominantly in the country and the degree to which such drug-usage creates a problem, together with a consideration of the local customs, attitudes, predominant mores and institutional patterns"  , p. 36). In order to fulfil these ends, training courses with a multidisciplinary approach have been advocated, as well as improved methods for prompt publication, data storage and retrieval, evaluation of significant findings and dissemination of information to be done by well-qualified personnel. The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in its eighteenth report pointed out that information on drug-related problems alone would not be sufficient to eradicate drug dependence, that "the general public should be well-informed so as to allow the promotion of the necessary legislative, preventive and management programmes" and that "education measures may be directed towards changing the attitudes of the community and not only towards the use of dependence-producing drugs in particular but also towards the use of drugs in general"  . It also suggested that advanced techniques would be needed for the population at risk of becoming drug-dependent, and that the school class may be developed as a special form of a therapeutic community. In addition, a community approach would be very effective  .
In its twentieth report, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence endeavoured to ascertain factors associated with the prevention of drug dependence and urged that it would be necessary to "eliminate ignorance and misconceptions about drug effects", to "modify broad and immediate socio-cultural mores in such a way as to discourage actively the inappropriate use of drugs..." and to "improve understanding of the causes of problems associated with the non-medical use of dependence-producing drugs, and of the effectiveness of various approaches and techniques in preventing these problems"  . This Committee found it necessary to maintain a distinction between information and education on drugs, and in doing so, it referred to the definitions of these terms as recommended by a UNESCO meeting which reported that "drug information is a form of communication which simply imparts factual knowledge or transmits cognitive learning. It is a fairly limited process in which the main elements are usually information concerning drugs themselves and their (harmful) effects upon peoples, along with instruction regarding specific drug-control legislation and other forms of social control. Drug education, on the other hand, is a broad range of concerted activities relating to teaching and learning situations and experience which attempts to maximize opportunities for the intellectual, emotional, psychological and physiological development of young people"  . Information is a one-way activity, education involves a two-way communication, such as expression of feelings and group discussions.
Such education should aim at the decision-making skills, the classification of values and their transformation into action, and the development of coping skills  , pp. 48-49). Monitoring the environment and social control should also be part of such a programme  , p. 51). However, the Committee itself pointed out that the effectiveness of drug education programmes had not yet been adequately evaluated  , p. 49).
Nevertheless, the importance of drug education in reducing demand has consistently been pointed out by the competent entities of the United Nations system, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with drug abuse problems  . The General Assembly of the United Nations, in its resolution 36/168 of 16 December 1981, endorsed the International Drug Abuse Control Strategy, which had been prepared by the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs and adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs  ,  . The Strategy urged countries to collaborate "to ensure free flow of technical information to permit identification of regional trends and facilitate use of counter-measures as they are developed" and that "... universities should be encouraged to include drug abuse prevention programmes in the curricula offered to medical students and professional health workers" ( , p. 15). It pointed out that information should be disseminated on the rational use of drugs and on the risks associated with drug abuse. The Strategy also stressed that publications which stimulate drug abuse should be discouraged. In recommending policy measures required for the prevention of drug abuse, it included the following  , p. 16): "To provide, by national authorities, preventive educational programmes which stimulate interest in healthful activities and provide positive alternatives to drug taking, which are consistent with the social values of each country"; "to provide, by national authorities, with regional and international support where appropriate, education and training for students, teachers, parents, magistrates and personnel of community welfare services and those dealing with youth problems and family health."
Undeniably, as with any other programme of this nature, success depends upon the co-operation of national authorities. The Health Ministers from 30 countries met in March 1986 and examined various ways to curtail demand for drugs. They declared that they must initiate action and collaborate with their colleagues in areas such as law enforcement, the judicial system, education and the environment, in efforts to reduce drug abuse  . They also urged the international community to promote "healthy and personally fulfilling alternatives to drug taking"  .
Successful drug law enforcement presupposes effective legislation on drug control and its efficient enforcement. It is believed that drug supply and demand for drugs can be reduced to a certain extent by effective law enforcement measures implemented both at national and international levels. Given the fact that the illicit traffic in drugs over the last decade has become a highly organized criminal activity, effective law enforcement policies and countermeasures to achieve a significant reduction in the supply of drugs on the illicit market are difficult to implement, mainly because of scarcity of resources and lack of trained personnel to deal with drug-related crimes. This problem can only be dealt with successfully within the framework of a developed international co-operation in this area. Stringent drug law enforcement measures should operate as effective factors in reducing the illicit supply of drugs. This, combined with effective drug education and other preventive measures, as well as rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug addicts, should result in a significant reduction of the demand for drugs.
In so far as law enforcement measures are concerned, the efforts of the United Nations, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the Customs Co-operation Council have substantially helped to promote drug law enforcement action to control the supply and movement of drugs.
Regional meetings of heads of national drug law enforcement agencies (HONLEA) and the Interregional HONLEA held at Vienna in the summer of 1986 have been instrumental in promoting international co-operation in this area, which is indispensable to coping with increasing problems of drug trafficking. The International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking held at Vienna in June 1987, which was attended by the representatives of 138 States at a high level of Government, adopted a Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control, which suggested courses of action at the regional and international levels. This document includes measures in the following four areas of drug control: prevention and reduction of illicit demand for drugs, control of supply, suppression of illicit trafficking and treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. It is hoped that the implementation of measures adopted by the June 1987 Conference will result in more effective suppression of illicit drug trafficking and reduction in the illicit demand for drugs.
If drug abuse is deeply-rooted in a society, law enforcement measures can only operate as a deterrent to drug abuse and trafficking problems. Such measures, however, do not lead to eradication of the habit of drug abuse. It is most likely that enormous profits that are derived from drug trafficking, as well as technological advances in communications and logistics systems, will prompt the traffickers to try to increase further the illicit supply of and demand for drugs. This may also prompt the traffickers to promote the illegal manufacture of new more potent addiction-producing substances for illicit distribution in the future. In spite of this likelihood and the fact that there exist a number of unresolved legal issues relating to punishment of drug abusers and their effects on sentencing policies  , law enforcement measures are essential and every effort should be made to promote them in order to establish and maintain a legal order in this area of social defence.
In order to promote the prevention of drug abuse, national authorities must deal with factors that have been known to be conducive to the occurrence of drug abuse problems, such as unemployment  . Parents, teachers and others dealing with problems of young people at the local level should deal with factors known to lead to drug abuse, such as psychological deficiencies  , social pressures developing a feeling of inadequacy and inability to compete with peers  , the drug subculture of young people, lack of parental care and broken homes  and disregard of the conventional values of life culminating in the breach of taboos concerning drug use  .
The European Regional Office of the World Health Organization advocated in its health strategy for all that in relation to alcohol and drug abuse "more effective mechanisms of social support for groups that are especially vulnerable to acquiring habits of drug abuse should be developed, including a broad range of outreach activities, self-help groups, treatment centres, half-way houses, shelters, etc., so as to improve services for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in cases of alcohol and drug abuse and social violence". It is also pointed out that "a much stronger research effort is needed to develop innovative approaches to prevention, taking into consideration a broad range of possible measures in different sectors. Similarly, the development of better methods for evaluating treatment programmes and a systematic search for more effective methods of treatment must be given high priority"  .
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