June 24, 2010

Drug Users Drifting From Cocaine To Synthetic Drugs

A UN report said Wednesday that drug use is moving away from cocaine and opiates and growing towards synthetic drugs.

"The world's supply of the two main problem drugs -- opiates and cocaine -- keeps declining," the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found in its 2010 World Drug Report presented Wednesday.

It noted that the land used for opium cultivation in the last two years has shrunk by 23 percent.  Coca cultivation has dropped by 28 percent in the last decade.

The UNODC warned that the global number of users of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) was soon expected to top the combined number of opiate and cocaine users.

"We will not solve the world drugs problem if we simply push addiction from cocaine and heroin to other addictive substances and there are unlimited amounts of them, produced in mafia labs at trivial costs," director Antonio Maria Costa said.

The office said that with short trafficking routes and with raw materials readily and legally available, these drugs were harder to seize.

The UNODC also said that while cocaine consumption has fallen significantly in the U.S., the number of users in Europe has doubled in the last decade to 4.1 million in 2008.

Summarizing the problem, Costa said, "People snorting coke in Europe are killing the pristine forests of the Andean countries and corrupting governments in West Africa."

The office said that developing countries were increasingly falling prey to drugs.  Heroin consumption was up in eastern Africa, cocaine use had increased in West Africa and South America, and production of synthetic drugs was also rising in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

"We will not solve the world drugs problem by shifting consumption from the developed to the developing world," Costa said.

The UNODC chief said that while users in rich countries had the necessary facilities to help them overcome their addiction, this was not the case for poorer nations.

The report said that in 2008, only a fifth of drug addicts had access to treatment, leaving about 20 million users around the world without care.

It added that drug addiction should be handled as a health issue, rather than an offense punishable by jail time, or even execution.

"Just because people take drugs, or are behind bars, this doesn't abolish their rights."

"I appeal to countries where people are executed for drug-related offenses or, worse, are gunned down by extra-judicial hit squads, to end this practice," Costa urged.

The UNODC found that cannabis remained the most widely produced and consumed drug, being grown in about every country and smoked by between 130 and 190 million people each year.


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