Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ann M. Simmons


Consumers Number About 246 Million, With the U.S. Leading the Way and 
Cannabis the Top Narcotic.

As leaders from around the world gather in New York for what many are 
calling the most important summit on illegal drugs in two decades, 
one thing is clear: The world has a serious drug problem.

Worldwide, about 246 million people use illicit drugs, and 1 in 10 of 
these users suffer from disorders related to drug use. Of the 
estimated 12 million people who inject drugs, at least 1.6 million 
are also living with HIV, while slightly more than half suffer from 
hepatitis C. Each year, 200,000 people suffer drug-related deaths, 
such as overdoses.

And, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the 
U.S. is leading the way, followed by Australia, Canada, Spain, Israel 
and Uruguay. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse 
reports that 10% of Americans 12 and older said they had used an 
illicit drug in the last month.

Americans are also the greatest consumers when it comes to 
prescription opioids and marijuana, which remains the most widely 
used drug in the world, according to the U.N. drug agency.

The U.N. General Assembly is convening a special session on the world 
drug problem in New York this week, bringing together government, 
human rights and health leaders to discuss whether the hard-line 
tactics of combating drug trafficking and money laundering have failed.

Around the world, there were an estimated 182 million cannabis users 
in 2013, more than all other drug users combined.

Around 8.5% of Americans over age 12 reported using marijuana as 
recently as 2014, according to National Center on Addiction and 
Substance Abuse data. There has been a slight increase in marijuana 
usage, largely because of the increased acceptability of the drug, 
its legality in some states, and the perception that it causes a 
lower level of harm than other drugs, according to Linda Richter, the 
organization's director of policy research and analysis.

While pot remains the most widely used drug, it still falls behind 
opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and the drug Ecstasy in terms of 
substances that present the highest risk of harm, according to the 
agency. Afghanistan saw rampant use of opiates in 2009, the latest 
year for which such data are available. Use of amphetamines was most 
prevalent in the Philippines in 2008, while cocaine was most widely 
used in Spain in 2011, and Ecstasy dominated in New Zealand in 2007.

Yury Fedotov, the U.N. drug agency's executive director, said his 
agency has noticed certain global trends. For example, while cocaine 
use is decreasing or stabilizing in Europe and North America, it has 
increased in some parts of South America, and in West and East 
Africa, as criminals seek to expand their markets into areas that 
were previously seen only as transit routes, Fedotov said in written 
comments to The Times. Heroin is also being seized in these regions, 
and methamphetamine labs have been found in West African countries, he added.

Meanwhile, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants, especially 
methamphetamine, is increasing in East and Southeast Asia and there 
has been a rise in the use of opiates in some countries where it was 
declining or had stabilized, such as the U.S., where there has been 
an increase in the supply of inexpensive heroin and a rise in 
heroin-related deaths, Fedotov said.

There has also been an upswing in the usage of the painkiller 
fentanyl, which U.S. drug agency officials say dealers use to spike 
heroin for greater potency at a cheaper cost or as a counterfeit for 
drugs such as Norco.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, an estimated 700 
people died as a result of fentanyl and its analogs nationwide from 
late 2013 to late 2014.

In India, the use of opium - which is used to produce heroin - has 
become rampant in the northern state of Punjab, largely because of 
trafficking along the border with Pakistan, according to healthcare 
specialists. But cannabis has also become popular, especially in 
urban areas, said Anand Nadkarni, director of the Institute for 
Psychological Health in Maharashtra and founder of a rehabilitation 
center in the western city of Pune.

Hamid, 34, a resident of Mumbai, India, said he is recovering from a 
drug addiction that began when he used hashish.

"Hashish was a gateway to this world and shortly I experimented with 
various other drugs," said Hamid, who did not want to use his last 
name because of the sensitive nature of his circumstances.

"My college education fell apart and my family became estranged."

He said he started stealing to support his habit and landed in jail 
for three years before accepting the opportunity to turn his life around.

Father Joe Pereira, who heads the anti-addiction Kripa Foundation in 
Mumbai, said that in his 35 years of working with drug addicts he has 
noticed the average age of the consumers dropping from between 45 and 
55 in the early 1980s to between 14 and 24 today.

"Today the youngsters get jobs and start earning fairly early in 
life," Pereira said. "Workplaces like call centers, especially where 
youngsters work, have been penetrated by drug consumption."

Times staff writer Joseph Serna in Los Angeles and special 
correspondent Parth M.N. in Mumbai, India, contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom