Laos’ drug czar Soubanh Srithirath says drugs problems in Laos, especiallytrafficking and consumption, have become increasingly serious as reflected in the results of random testing of Lao students. Random screening in 2003 found that only 3.7% of the students tested used drugs. That number increased to 27% in 2005. And it is believed that currently there are over 50,000 students using drugs, especially methamphetamines, and the number of opium addicts has increased to more than 12,000. The majority of these are former addicts who have gone back to smoking opium after stopping for a while.
A high ranking official in the LCDC observed that although officials have declared their country opium-free, illicit opium poppy cultivation by local people still exists and spreading, which leads to the increase of opium addicts from 7,700 in 2007 to almost 13,00 now. In addition, new heroin and marijuana users as well as vanish/glue sniffers have emerged in some local areas. Lao officials also admit that the fact that Laos has declared itself opium-free since 2006, with the reduction of opium cultivated areas from 26,837 hectares in 1997 to only 1,500 hectares now, has contributed to the increase in opium price from US$10/kg to US$ 150/kg, and rising.
Moreover,officials say Laos has become more and more a transit point for illicit drug trafficking from the gold triangle area to other countries. And with limited budget, Lao officials find that they are unable to completely stop or prevent these negative activities from rising; therefore, they have to rely mainly on foreign assistance as in the past when they have received assistance from the United Nations and the U.S. government among others.
Listen to Songrit’s report for more details in Lao.