The United Nations says there is growing evidence that the worldwide epidemic of drug abuse is being brought under control. In this year's World Drug Report, the United Nations notes there have been significant and positive changes in world drugs markets and that run-away addiction has slowed. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva where the report was released.
The U.N. Drug Report shows global markets for illicit drugs largely stabilized in 2005 and 2006. It says the cultivation, production, and consumption of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines seem to have been brought under control.
It says coca cultivation in the Andean countries continues to fall, driven by significant declines in Colombia. It says the global demand for cocaine also has stabilized. But, it notes the decline in the United States is offset by alarming increases in some European countries.
The report says the production and consumption of amphetamines has leveled off and for the first time in years, the global production and consumption of cannabis has not gone up.
While all this is good news, the United Nations is quick to say that huge problems with illicit drug abuse remain. It warns against complacency and says the situation could easily deteriorate again.
The United Nations finds opium cultivation has declined in Myanmar, Laos and the rest of the world.
The UN report says Laos, once the third largest illicit opium producer in the world, reached a landmark in 2006, becoming virtually opium-free. Vigorous government eradication efforts have reduced the area under opium by 93 per cent since 1998.
The 2006 UNODC survey Opium Poppy Cultivation in the Golden Triangle showed that Laos was no longer exporting opium, but it warned that the progress could unravel unless poor farmers were given secure alternatives sources of income.
UNODC's socio-economic impact surveys showed that half of former opium-producing communities needed urgent assistance. UNODC helped develop an Action Plan targeting 1,000 prority villages.
Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh announced measures to address drug control during the national campaign against drugs in October. At a meeting to harmonize drug-control efforts, many development partners, including the EC, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Food Programme (WFP), pledged funds to bring development to these villages.
UNODC carried out a rapid assessment survey in mid-2006, which showed an increase in injecting drug use and related HIV/AIDS among young people in the country's capital, Vientiane.
But, the UN report says opium production increased dramatically in Afghanistan in 2006. The main author of the Report, Thomas Pietschmann, says the southern province of Helmand, which is largely under the control of the Taleban, is on the verge of becoming the world's biggest drug supplier.
"We see a very, very close link between drug production and insurgency and security or lack of security. But, it is also clear that the original strategy of the allied forces to ignore the opium poppy was not particularly successful because it created all the financial revenues for the insurgency to operate and become even more powerful."
The Report puts the value of the illicit drugs market at 322 billion dollars a year. It says Africa is being targeted by traffickers seeking new routes, including cocaine traffickers from Colombia and heroin smugglers from Afghanistan.
The UN report says drug law enforcement has improved and large seizures of cocaine and heroin have helped contain the drug problem. At the same time, it notes there are 25 million problem drug users in the world. It says more attention must be paid to drug prevention and treatment.
Listen to our audio for Lao translation.