Lao authorities say there were 5,000 more opium addicts in 2007 than 2006, contributing to the re-emergence of poppy cultivation in some areas of the country that were declared opium-free two years ago.
Official statistics show there were 12,860 opium addicts last year as compared to 7,706 in 2006, and most of the new addicts were those who had quit and been rehabilitated. Authorities say former poppy farmers in many highland areas previously declared opium-free have returned to their old occupation because assistance and development programs designed to help teach them farm alternative crops have not reached their areas due to budget constraints. UNODC figures reveal there were more than 1,500 hectares of new opium farming areas in 2007.
Lao officials also acknowledge a rise in usage of yah baah or methamphetamines as well as other drugs, adding that a major contributing factor is Laos being a transit point for drugs smuggled out of the Golden Triangle, the area where Laos', Thailand's and Burma's borders meet.
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