/ 23 July 2008

UN: Cannabis the most abused drug in SA

While cannabis is the drug most abused in South Africa, amphetamine-style stimulants such as tik pose the greatest threat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Wednesday.

Presenting the annual World Drug Report 2008 in Pretoria, UNODC regional representative Jonathan Lucas said cannabis has become more addictive, especially in Africa.

He said this is due to the new strain of higher-potency cannabis that is being produced.

The high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) make the drug more addictive and this has increased due to hydroponic methods of production.

For example, in the ”hippie era”, the THC percentage was about 2% to 3%; however, this has increased to over 8% globally and in Africa this can go up to 17%, said Lucas.

”It’s very addictive and it’s very dangerous.”

He said the levels of abuse can be seen in an increase of people in the country seeking treatment.

However, drugs such as tik, which require precursor legal chemicals to produce, pose the greatest threat on the drugs market.

This is because law enforcement requires the cooperation of pharmaceutical companies as well as the international community to monitor and prevent the use of legal chemicals in production of the drug.

Lucas commended the South African Police Service on its chemical monitoring programme, as evidenced particularly in the Western Cape.

”It’s done a fantastic job in limiting the production [of tik].”

He said there is also a demand for the precursor drugs from manufacturers in seven countries in the region, which can be obtained from South Africa. ”So far South Africa has been able to stop this.”

Lucas said Afghanistan and Colombia are the biggest producers of heroin and cocaine respectively and this, parallel to their political and social instability, cannot be ignored.

In both countries the government does not have control of its entire region and drug money is used as a means to finance agendas of political factions.

”The weaker the state, the more we have the situation whereby drug traffickers can operate.”

He said Colombia and Afghanistan are ”flagrant examples” of this.

One of the biggest obstacles facing drug enforcement is cooperation across borders to prevent trafficking.

According to the report, about 26-million people globally take drugs.

The report was launched in South Africa in collaboration with the University of South Africa. — Sapa