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Report on latest ATS trends in East and SE Asia launched

Bangkok (Thailand), 26 November 2009 -While countries in the East and South-East Asia region have increased their efforts to tackle the problem of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and other drugs, a new United Nations report highlights the continued need for joint efforts, both at the national and regional levels.

The report, entitled 2009 Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs in East and South-East Asia, was launched today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Bangkok.

This report forms one of the first essential steps in providing consolidated up-to-date analysis to the UN member countries, with the aim to create better understanding of the ATS situation and design appropriate scientific, evidence-based policies and programmes to respond to it.

The East and South-East Asia region faces an increasing challenge in synthetic drugs, in particular ATS, due to their availability and malleability to rapidly shifting markets. Globally, more people use ATS than heroin and cocaine combined.

The information in the report is synthesized under UNODC's Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends or SMART Programme. The SMART Programme works with Governments in the region to collect and share information and to support the various agencies to improve the ability to respond to the law enforcement and public health challenges posed by synthetic drugs.

The report presents the most current patterns and trends of ATS and other drugs of use in East and South-East Asia, based on the information reported by the partner government agencies. It focuses on the East and South-East Asia region, and also provides brief overviews of the neighbouring regions of South Asia and the Pacific Island States. In addition, the document contains national reports from 15 countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam).

Please click to download the report The findings are based on the latest available information shared by the drug control agencies and designated institutions in the various countries covered under the report. Based on data submitted for the year 2007 and 2008 the following observations are made in the report:

  • The countries in the East and South-East Asia region have differential capacities to monitor and respond to the threat posed by synthetic drugs.
  • The number of countries reporting methamphetamine in either pill or crystalline form as their primary drug of use, has remained largely the same over the past four years. However, methamphetamine has rapidly become more prominent in some countries which now rank it as the second most common drug.
  • Not all countries report treatment data according to drug type or demographics. However, for those countries that do report, methamphetamine treatment admissions have almost doubled from 2004 to 2008.
  • In East and South-East Asia, methamphetamine pill seizures increased in 2008 over the previous year with slightly more than 31 million pills seized compared to just over 25 million pills in 2007. Crystalline methamphetamine seizures have also increased, during this period.
  • For most countries that disaggregate arrest data by drug type, methamphetamine related arrests have been on an increasing trend over the past five years with the total number of arrests nearly two times as great in 2008 compared to four years earlier.
  • The burden that methamphetamine use places on the justice system is considerable for many countries. In Brunei, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Lao PDR, and Thailand, methamphetamine related arrests account for over three quarters of total drug arrests.
  • Ecstasy is not reported as the most common form of drug use in any country in East and South-East Asia. It is the second most common drug of use in Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand.
  • Forensic and treatment information in the region is limited and suggests that drugs marketed as 'ecstasy' often contain substances other than MDMA, such as ketamine or methamphetamine.
  • An increasing number of clandestine synthetic drug manufacturing facilities have been dismantled in East and South-East Asia during the past five years and typically represent the larger, industrial-size operations.
  • Seizures of methamphetamine manufacturing facilities in recent years in South Asia may indicate the intent by organized crime groups to utilize the region for manufacturing and trafficking.
  • The Pacific Island States are situated in a geographically vulnerable transit area due to the large movement of shipping and more detailed data collection systems need to be put in place for scoping the risk of this area.

The information highlights that challenges in some countries remain in terms of the disparate levels of analysis, data generation and forensics. Also, the health implications includ­ing the treatment facilities and challenges posed by associated dimensions such as injecting drug use and HIV/ AIDS, need to be understood further. This is necessary for adequate responses to these issues, both in terms of the quality as well as the quantity.

The Global SMART Programme is currently operational in eleven countries of this region and is generously supported by the Governments of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Thailand.