/ 29 August 2007

UN: Global drug trade not growing

The worldwide illegal drugs trade has stopped growing for the first time since the mid-Nineteenth Century, although use and production of some drugs is rising fast in pockets, a senior United Nations official said on Wednesday.

Methamphetamine abuse in East Asia and production of opium in Afghanistan are both growing at an alarming rate, but poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle area of Indochina has fallen, said Akira Fujino, the East Asia representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

”This is the first time in history that we’re observing this trend,” Fujino told a news conference in Manila on Wednesday.

”There has been a steady rise in the drug problem since the Opium Wars in the 1800s. But, it doesn’t mean that the problem is being licked.”

The production area for opium in the Golden Triangle has fallen from more than 160 000ha in 1996 to about 32 000ha in 2005, Fujino said, adding latest figures from Burma, Laos and Thailand could show further reduction.

In contrast, opium production in violence-torn Afghanistan was ”skyrocketing to record levels”, alarming countries in Western Europe, where the opium and heroin made from it are distributed and sold, Fujino added. He did not give a figure on the level of production.

Drug-enforcement officials from across the East Asia and Pacific region are meeting for three days in Manila to review efforts to fight the menace posed by amphetamine-type stimulants, including Ecstasy or yaba, and methamphetamine substances such as ”ice” or shabu.

Fujino said governments in the region must pour more resources into reducing demand for synthetic drugs as abuse of heroin and cannabis were showing declines.

”Prisons are crowded, rehabilitation and treatment facilities are limited and more advocacy campaigns are needed to address the problem,” Fujino said, adding it was cheaper to prevent than treat amphetamine abuse. — Reuters