Abuse of ‘date-rape drugs’ on the rise, UN anti-narcotics panel finds

24 February 2010 – Governments need to give greater attention to fighting drug abuse, particularly the so-called “date-rape drugs” whose use is on the rise, warned the independent United Nations body tasked with monitoring the production and consumption of narcotics worldwide.

In its annual report released today, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) called on all governments to implement a 2009 resolution of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs “to combat the misuse of pharmaceutical products to commit sexual assault as soon as possible and to be vigilant about the worrying increase in ‘date-rape drug’ abuse.”

Even a single early drug using experience can result in serious consequences, such as unintentional injury, overdose or arrestThe report highlighted the need to focus drug prevention programmes on young people who use drugs frequently as well as those who are not using or not seriously involved with drugs, as part of so-called primary prevention efforts.

“Preventing drug abuse is a crucial area of demand reduction. Primary prevention encompasses measures taken to prevent and reduce drug use in populations that are either not using or not seriously involved with drugs,” said INCB President Sevil Atasoy.

She added that governments need to partner with civil society to apply scarce resources effectively at all levels, locally, nationally and internationally.

“There is good reason for society to give concerted attention to preventing drug abuse. Even a single early drug using experience can result in serious consequences, such as unintentional injury, overdose or arrest,” said Ms. Atasoy, the first woman to head the INCB in nearly two decades.

The report also raised the alarm about abuse from new psychoactive substances, which are easier to obtain and under less stringent international controls, and prescription drugs. The INCB recommended that governments either prohibit or closely control sales of internationally controlled substances by Internet pharmacies and telephone call centres, noting that abuse from prescription drugs is greater in some countries than from heroin, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) combined.

The INCB warned that highly organized and powerful criminal networks were using new processes, routes and substances to keep drug manufacturing operations alive, despite stricter controls over chemical trade.

Despite a decline in seizures of cocaine trafficking, “smuggling remains a serious problem and contributes to increasing drug abuse in West Africa,” noted the report.

Speaking to the Security Council in December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called drug trafficking a leading threat to global peace and security and called for greater international cooperation in fighting organized crime network.

He noted that drug trafficking was fuelling brutal insurgencies in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Myanmar, spreading violence in West Africa, Central Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, and threatening to reverse UN peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

INCB members serve in an individual capacity and monitor compliance with the provisions of the international drug control treaties. The panel ensures that adequate supplies of legal drugs are available for medical and scientific purposes, and makes certain that no leakage from licit sources of drugs to illicit trafficking occurs.

The Vienna-based body also identifies and helps to correct weaknesses in drug control systems and determines which chemicals used to manufacture drugs should be under international control.

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