The 2007 U.S. State Department International Narcotics report says In 2006, Laos moved into what seemed a final stage in its battle against opium, in no small part due to U.S. counter narcotics funding and assistance from other donors working to alleviate rural poverty and drug cultivation. From a high of more than 42,000 ha under cultivation in 1989, current estimates show less than 3,000 remaining, a reduction of more than 90 percent.
However, high opium prices driven by this reduction in supply and a remaining addict population of 8-10,000 may stall the effort to end poppy cultivation. Indeed one recent estimate sees a sharp increase in opium production, and the increasingly desperate circumstances of many villages in growing regions are highly favorable to a dramatic reversal of years of progress.
Many former poppy cultivators, finding themselves without the assistance they expected, are facing severe food security problems. Robust alternative development assistance over the long term is necessary to assure that Laos eliminates poppy cultivation completely. If aid is not soon forthcoming, many former opium farmers could be forced back into poppy production.
Just as Laos is attempting to eliminate the last of its opium, a new threat has appeared in the form of ATS. The scourge of methamphetamine, locally known as "yaa baa" (crazy medicine), is exploding among the nation's youth, truck drivers, and commercial sex workers. Though previously consumed primarily in tablet form, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that injectable types of ATS have begun to appear, raising concerns about HIV transmission.
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