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Experts assess use of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia

Bangkok (Thailand), 26 August 2010 - It is estimated that up to 37 million people living in Asia take amphetamine-type stimulants, mainly methamphetamine in pill and crystalline form.

This increase in the use of amphetamine-type stimulants was just one of the issues discussed by a group of law enforcement officers, health practitioners, forensic scientists and donor country representatives brought together by UNODC under the Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analysis, Report and Trends (SMART) Programme at a regional workshop held in Bangkok on 5 and 6 August 2010.

UNODC believes that providing consolidated, up-to-date information and comprehensive analysis on rapidly changing trends in the use of amphetamine-type stimulants is an essential step in addressing the problem in the region.

However, pulling together data from States with differing capacities, ranging from highly industrialized to newly emerging economies, is challenging. Nevertheless, in the year since the Global SMART Programme has been implemented, these initial obstacles have been overcome and a report, entitled Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs in East and South-East Asia (and neighbouring regions), was published in 2009.

Currently, UNODC is in the final stages of putting together the information for the 2010 update of that publication.

During the regional workshop in Bangkok, 25 representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam discussed specific issues, including the limited understanding of treatment and rehabilitation services tailored specifically to users of amphetamine-type stimulants and the ever-increasing involvement of transnational organized criminal groups.

Participants shared information on various scenarios and responses being implemented at the country level. "Focusing on the regional issues and then drilling down to the national level from one country to the other was a useful approach deployed in the workshop," said one participant.

Informational sessions focused on activities carried out in the framework of the Global SMART Programme on the use of amphetamine-type stimulants in the region and on national training and capacity-building needs.

The workshop also provided participants with the opportunity to visit the Thanyarak Institute, a treatment and rehabilitation facility in the outskirts of Bangkok for people dependant on amphetamine-type stimulants. The visit was organized by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand.

The regional workshop reinforced UNODC engagement with partner Governments and the work of the Global SMART Programme in Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines. The need to extend partnerships with research institutes, individual experts and non-governmental and community-based organizations was also highlighted.

The Global SMART Programme is currently engaging with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, and is expected to gradually expand 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.