casts a glazed, vacant look. He is groggy and sick. But at least
he can remember his name. Today is day
four of his detoxification and he canít think straight enough
to lie. Ask any "dry" heroin addict when
they felt at their lowest ebb and they will tell you between day
three and day five. This is when the vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations
and shivers are at their worst. It will take another ten days
before the process is over, and even then Hanif will be far from
cured. Leave him alone and he is certain
to wind up back in the embrace of the heroin he has been smoking
for 10 years.
this time he has a chance. His mother, who works as a nurse overseas,
has sent money to pay for his detoxification at this centre called
"new life". It is one of fewer than 200 treatment and
rehabilitation centres in his country.
is drug abuse?
is indeed lucky. There are over 21 million victims around the world
who abuse cocaine and heroin, most of them are without any real opportunity
for cure. And this number is part of a larger group of people who
have taken psychoactive drugs for curative, religious and recreational
purposes since time immemorial.
take drugs to change the way they feel, think, or behave. These
kinds of substances are called psychoactive and cover alcohol and tobacco
as well as natural and manufactured drugs. In the past, most of the
drugs that were used were made from plants, such as the coca bush for
cocaine, opium poppies for heroin and cannabis for hashish or marijuana.
More recently, drugs such as ecstasy or LSD are produced by
synthesizing various chemicals.
abuse affects most countries in the world, both rich and poor. The problem
now crosses national, ethnic, religious and gender lines. Addicts
range from the homeless, to white-collar professionals, college students
to rural farmers, street children to suburban teenagers.
kind of drugs are being abused?
of abuse fall into three categories:
(e.g. heroin, barbiturates),
(e.g. cocaine, crack, amphetamines) and
(e.g. marijuana, ecstasy, LSD), and are either ingested,
inhaled, smoked, injected or snorted.
are sedatives which act on the nervous system. Artificial relaxation
and relief from anxiety and mental stress tend to produce psychological
dependence and withdrawal from heavy use is severe.
are agents that activate, enhance, or increase neural activity. They
include amphetamines and synthetic appetite suppressants such as phenmetrazine
or methylphenidate. They can give rise to symptoms suggestive of intoxication,
including tachycardia, pupillary dilation, elevated blood pressure,
nausea or vomiting and abnormal behaviour such as fighting. agitation
and impaired judgement. A full-blown delusional psychosis may occur.
are a chemically divers group which produce profound mental changes
such as euphoria, anxiety, sensory distortion, vivid hallucination,
delusion, paranoia and depression. They include mescaline and LSD.
prevalent is the abuse?
of abuse of different drugs varies considerably by region and even country
throughout the world.
and Hashish: Estimates show that cannabis is the most
widely abused drug in all parts of the world, with an estimated 141
million people (or 2.4 per cent of the world's population) consuming
it. In particular, large numbers of young people experiment with
cannabis: as high as 37 per cent (one time use over the past year)
of school children and young adults in some countries and 10-25 per
cent for past month use. Overall, cannabis abuse is increasing in many
countries while stabilizing in countries where it has reached high levels.
show that cannabis is the most widely abused drug in all parts
of the world, with an estimated 141 million people (or 2.4 per
cent of the world's population) consuming it.
Drugs: Globally, UN estimates show that the abuse of
synthetic drugs, particularly of amphetamine-type stimulants (such as
speed and ecstasy) is widespread and increasing rapidly. Some 30 million
people abuse such synthetic stimulants.
spread relatively slowly in the 1980s, abuse of amphetamine-type
stimulants increased rapidly in Europe, Australia, North America and
South-East Asia in the 1990s. While the abuse has stabilized in
some of these areas, there is still a continuous growth in global demand
particularly in East and South-East Asia. Increasingly, synthetic drugs
have gained in significance, particularly among young people as their
recreational drug of choice, often in combination with cannabis. MDMA
(ecstasy) is popular in the industrialized world, especially in Europe.
Drugs from Plants: In general, cocaine together with
various other coca-derived substances like "bazuco" (coca
paste), is the second most widely abused drug in the Americas after
cannabis, and coca-derived substances dominate the demand for treatment.
UNDCP estimates that some 13 million people abuse cocaine worldwide:
highest in the United States. Despite recent declines in the last decade
and in a large number of Latin American countries.
to other drugs, the abuse of heroin and other opiates is less prevalent.
UN estimates show that around 8 million people abuse opiates, mostly
in Europe, South-East and South-West Asia. In general, consumption affects
less than 2 per cent of the population in these regions but can be more
widespread in some of the opium-cultivating areas. Rising levels of
abuse are reported in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
general, cocaine together with various other coca-derived substances
like "bazuco" (coca paste), is the second most widely
abused drug in the Americas after cannabis.
are the abusers?
who abuse drugs come from all walks of life, although statistics show
that some are more likely to take drugs than others. For instance,
men are more likely to abuse drugs than women, single more than married,
city-dwellers more than rural residents, younger more than older. Prisoners
and street children also show a high incidence of drug abuse.
data raise concern over the increased use of drugs among the young people
worldwide. The data available show the prevalence among young people
tends to be three or four times higher than among the general population.
Their drug of first choice is cannabis and its abuse is spreading.
of synthetic stimulants is widespread and ecstasy abuse, while
stabilizing at a high level in some western European countries, is increasing
in others and is also spreading to other regions. The average for
ecstasy is 2.6 per cent.
(such as glue and solvents) abuse is common (average 7.8 per cent)
and remains a serious problem for many young people.
does not seem to be the drug of first choice among young people.
However, recent trends indicate some increase in its abuse in Europe
(notably London and Amsterdam). In the United States cocaine abuse among
youth has been falling during the last 15 years but there are some recent
indications of a slight increase.
of heroin is increasing among youth in Eastern Europe, while there are
signs of a rise in abuse of heroin by smoking (United States and Western
cocaine and heroin, with averages of 1.9 per cent and 1.0 per cent respectively,
are not the main drugs of choice of youth.
(such as glue and solvents) abuse is common (average 7.8 per cent) and
remains a serious problem for many young people.
big is the supply?
In 1999, worldwide production of opium reached a record of 5,794 metric
tons derived from 219,000 hectares of poppy. More than 75 per cent of
the opium was from Afghanistan. Global production of coca-leaf rose
to 317,926 tonnes from 183,000 hectares of coca. Almost 60 per cent
of all coca leaf came from Colombia. How do we know? Integrating
efforts in aerial surveillance, on-the-ground assessment and satellite
sensing has enabled countries to gain a wide-ranging map of illicit
growing areas and pinpoint areas of decreased or increased cultivation
so as to provide a reliable assessment of crop yield.
the illicit production of drugs and the demand for them there has arisen
a flourishing illegal business - a non-business that can undermine economies
and cripple States. Drug trafficking is in the hands of transnational
organized crime syndicates which have taken advantage of globalization
while countermeasures have lagged behind.
opening up of borders and the explosion of electronic communication
technology have aided organized crime groups to traffic drugs
and launder the proceeds.
are the effects?
can be harmful in a number of ways, through both immediate effects and
damage to health over time. Even occasional use of marijuana affects
cognitive development and short-term memory. In addition, the effects
of marijuana on perception, reaction and coordination of movements can
result in accidents.
and amphetamines first cause tremors, headaches, hypertension
and increased heart-rate. Long-term effects are nausea, insomnia,
loss of weight, convulsions and depression.
(such as LSD) distort perceptions, alter heart-rate and blood pressure
and, in the long term, cause neurological disorders, depressions, anxiety,
visual hallucinations and flashbacks.
and amphetamines first cause tremors, headaches, hypertension and
increased heart-rate. Long-term effects are nausea, insomnia, loss of
weight, convulsions and depression.
use initially results in nausea, slow respiration, dry skin, itching,
slow speech and reflexes but, over a long period, there is the serious
risk of developing physical and psychological dependence which in
the end can lead to acute overdose which can lead to death due to respiratory
is some tendency towards presenting some drugs (such as cannabis and
ecstasy) as less harmful than they actually are, without taking into
consideration their long-term effects and the effects they have on adolescent
development, especially of certain critical cognitive functions like
the capacity to memorize. While ecstasy is said to have little or
no side effects, studies show that its use alters, perhaps permanently,
certain brain functions and damages the liver and other body organs.
is no illicit drug that can be considered safe.
not listed as illicit, inhalants are widely abused, especially
by disadvantaged youth. Some of these volatile substances, which are
present in many products such as glue, paint, gasoline and cleaning
fluids, are directly toxic to the liver, kidney or heart, and some produce
progressive brain degeneration.
major problem with psychoactive drugs is that when people take them,
they focus on the desired mental and emotional effects and ignore the
potentially damaging physical and mental side effects that can occur.
There is no illicit drug that can be considered safe. In
one way or another, the use of psychoactive substances alters the normal
functioning of the human body, and in the long run, can cause serious
about the HIV/AIDS connection?
June 2000, there were more than 34 million people with HIV/AIDS.
the most evident problem caused by drug abuse is the role of drug injecting
in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sharing injecting equipment, whether the
injection method be intravenous, intramuscular or beneath the skin,
carries a very high risk of transmission of HIV as well as other blood-borne
infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and C.
June 2000, there were more than 34 million people with HIV/AIDS.
The majority of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. The most common
way of transmitting the virus is sex between men and women but a second
epidemic - drug injecting Ė propel the virus in many, if not most countries
half of all AIDS cases in Bahrain, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan,
Portugal, Spain and Yugoslavia are attributed to injecting
the Russian Federation between 1998 and 1999 over
90 per cent of all new HIV infections were found
among injecting drug users.
1999, the number of countries reporting injecting drug use
was 136, up from 80 in 1992. Of these 136 countries, 93 also
identified HIV among drug injectors.
is often overlooked that non-injecting drug abuse can also result in
HIV infection. Once intoxicated, the users often let down their
guard, engage in risky sexual behaviour and thus contract the virus.
from personal physical effects on the individual, drug abuse has far-reaching
social and economic effects.
has been the United Nations response?
United Nations has addressed the drug abuse phenomena since the Organization's
Commission on Narcotic Drugs was established in 1946
and now comprises 53 Member States serving on a rotational
UN office dealing with drug control were unified in 1990 as
the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).
1999, this Programme linked with the Centre for International
Crime Prevention (CICP) to form the Office for Drug Control
and Crime Prevention.
The Office is based in Vienna.
reality that drug abuse was a problem that needed serious attention
and control first emerged from the Opium Commission in Shanghai in 1909
when the first international controls were instituted. Over the years,
various international agreements were negotiated restricting the sale
and use of different substances to medical purposes. However, it
was only through the United Nations that countries of the world were
able to develop a coordinated response.
- The Single
Convention on Narcotic Drugs
(1961) joined together
various existing treaties restricting the sale and use of different
substances to medical purposes. This was supplemented in 1972
by a Protocol stressing the need for treatment and rehabilitation
- The Convention
on Psychotropic Substances
(1971) established an international control system
for a list of pharmaceutical drugs and other substances that
affect the mind.
- The United
Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs
and Psychotropic Substances
(1988) addressed drug trafficking and included provisions
against money laundering and the diversion of chemicals used
in the manufacture of illicit drugs.
many years the drug problem was perceived by the international community
to lie on the "supply side." It was thought that the drugs
of abuse originated in the developing world and were consumed in the
industrialized world. Little attention was given to demand reduction.
However, the situation has now changed dramatically, with some of the
highest consumption rates being found in developing countries and cannabis
and synthetic drugs being produced in the North as well as the South.
a result, the United Nations has adopted a balanced approach to reduce
both supply and demand simultaneously. In 1998, the General Assembly,
in a special session on the world drug problem, adopted a Political
Declaration containing a number of time-bound goals for each side of
the equation, including:
set up new or enhanced demand reduction strategies and establish
or strengthen national legislation and anti-drug programmes,
and to adopt national money laundering legislation; and
achieve significant demand reduction, eliminate or significantly
reduce illicit cultivation, manufacture and marketing of drugs
(including synthetic drugs).
role of UNDCP
which is responsible for coordinating all United Nations drug control
activities, pursues three goals: reducing demand for illicit drugs,
reducing production of illicit drugs and reducing trafficking of drugs.
In order to help Governments develop national programmes and policies,
UNDCP collects and disseminates information on drug abusers. It coordinates
projects to eradicate illicit drug crops and to assist farmers with
finding alternatives. And to reduce drug trafficking, UNDCP gathers
information, provides expert advice on law enforcement methods and
coordinates international drug control activities.
promoting alternative development, UNDCP
helps reduce or eliminate the economic dependence of farmers
on illicit crops. In some countries, such as
Mexico, UNDCP has demonstrated that growing rubber and
other valuable trees can be a reliable and long-term source
of income (see box).
has been some success in eradicating illicit crops.
For example, in 1979, 800 tonnes of illicit opium were
produced in Pakistan whereas the figure had dropped to
less than 15 tonnes in 1999.
Global Programme against Money
Laundering provides training to business,
law enforcement and judicial professionals, including
groundwork for the creation of Financial Intelligence
Units by sponsoring financial investigation workshops.
with six other UN agencies and programmes in the fight
has been implementing a
anti-drugs programme in Brazil. It includes community
outreach projects, condom distribution, research on HIV
and training of community promoters. Similar
activities are being carried out in Eastern Europe, the
Russian Federation and some states of Central Asia, where
there are potentially explosive situations regarding drug
injecting and HIV infections.