Rise in Methamphetamine abuse among youth in SE Asia

Shortage of qualified drug treatment professionals hampers drug treatment services


Bangkok (Thailand), 28 February 2012
- Methamphetamine abuse is rising across South-East Asia, especially among young people, according to a report released today by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). A shortage of qualified health-care professionals and limited drug treatment programs greatly restrict drug abuse prevention and treatment programs in the region, the INCB warns.

To protect young people from drug abuse, the INCB Report recommends prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services, community rehabilitation and policing.

"Youth of marginalized communities have a right to be protected from drug abuse and drug dependence," said Dr. Viroj Sumyai, INCB Board Member, at the Report launch, which was held at Thailand's Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) in Bangkok. "Helping marginalized communities experiencing drug problems must be a priority."

Over 60 representatives from Thai government and law enforcement agencies, international diplomatic corps, UN agencies and local and international media attended the launch. They were welcomed by Police General Adul Sansingkeo, Secretary General of the ONCB, who noted the important role INCB played in Thailand's efforts to curb illicit drugs use and trafficking.

"The INCB Annual Report is extremely useful for our Government," Pol. Gen. Sangsingkeo said. "We use this information at ONCB for planning our illicit drugs response."

The Report findings were first presented by Dr. Sumyai of Thailand, who was then joined by Mr. Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific.

Describing the global drug control situation, Mr. Lewis indicated that the international drug control regime was "working" in that, among other things, the level of production of botanically-based illicit drugs is being "contained". He also noted that - globally - prevalence rates for illicit drug use have remained effectively stable, as a percentage of the global adult population, over the past decade.

Referring to the regional situation in South-East Asia, Mr. Lewis indicated that there was cause to be alarmed about the fourfold increase in seizures of methamphetamines during the period 2008-2010, according to latest figures available. Methamphetamines continue to be a major concern, he said, as is opium production.

However, on the basis of recent drug control developments in Myanmar, Mr. Lewis felt that there is now "a real prospect of progress on drug control in Myanmar."

According to UNODC, Myanmar currently accounts for 23% of global illicit poppy cultivation, and 9% of global opium production. In both respects, it is second only to Afghanistan. "Estimates of the actual amounts eradicated vary," Mr. Lewis said. "However, we are treating the Government's intensified eradication efforts on opium poppy - which are supported at the senior-most political level - as a positive step forward." Mr. Lewis cautioned however that "eradication alone is not the solution - what is now needed," he said, "is for the regional community of nations and the international donors to invest in supporting the development of licit livelihoods for these poor, poppy farming communities."

In his comments, Mr. Lewis re-iterated the importance of a rule of law-based response to the serious threat illicit drugs pose to human security in the region, and the need for evidence-based drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services for illicit drug users.

"The significant increase in opium poppy cultivation coupled with increases in trafficking in methamphetamines and other illicit drugs reflect a growing human security threat to the region," said Mr. Lewis. "There is a pressing need throughout East Asia and the Pacific for community-based drug treatment services that provide effective, evidence-based treatment."

Despite nearly universal adherence to international drug control conventions elsewhere in East Asia and the Pacific, significant illicit drug control challenges require comprehensive action, says the Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for 2011. Challenges include illicit drug trafficking and organized crime, marginalized communities vulnerable to drug abuse, illegal internet pharmacies, the targeting of the young by social media, the use of 'designer" non-scheduled chemicals to bypass drug control systems, and uneven access to controlled medicines around the world.

INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. Based on INCB activities, the INCB annual report provides a comprehensive survey of the drug control situation in the world. As an impartial body, INCB tries to identify and predict dangerous trends and suggests necessary measures to be taken.