HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Prescription Drugs 'Over-Used'
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Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2001
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2001 BBC
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PRESCRIPTION DRUGS 'OVER-USED'

International Experts Say Developed Countries Are Using Too Many
Prescription Drugs

The UN International Narcotics Control Board issued the warning in
its 2000 report. It looked at the use of mood altering drugs like
benzodiazepines.

It said the drugs were often given for what were social problems,
such as unemployment or relationship difficulties, both in developed
countries and those which were seeing fast economic growth, such as
Malaysia and Singapore.

A survey by the INCB found many patients were prescribed the
mood-altering stimulants to treat mental and psychological disorders,
even though they were not diagnosed as mentally ill.

Benzodiazepines are a major problem. In Europe, the forms of drug
used as a sedative are used three times as often as in the US.

But in the US, the forms of benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and
obesity disorders are used 10 times more often than in Europe.

Loose prescription regulations, aggressive marketing and unethical
prescribing were highlighted as problems.

'Oversupply' a problem

INCB president Professor Hamid Ghodse said an oversupply of drugs can
be as big a problem as the under-supply of pain-relieving drugs to
developing countries which last year's report highlighted.

"Up to 70% of long-term use of psychotrophic drugs is irrelevant and
often prescribed for social reasons."

He said although an estimated 30% of the populations of developed
countries were obese, the use of anti-obesity drugs was due to
fashion.

He said: "People are too focused on making their shape into what is
perceived as attractive." Online trafficking of drugs on the internet
was also highlighted as a growing problem. Although the board said
the internet was a low cost way of getting supplies to remote areas,
it said it provided easy access to drugs.

Policing drugs trading on the internet is a high priority, said the
board, which is urging governments to set up regulatory controls for
online pharmacies.

It praised international co-operation between Thailand and the United
States, through which online pharmacies were closed.

The Thailand-based pharmacies were a source of illegal drugs for
addicts in the US. International situation

The Vienna-based board of international experts oversees the
implementation of UN drug treaties, and how countries are complying.

In Asia, the INCB said recent reports had made it cautiously
optimistic that opium production in Afghanistan ha been virtually
eradicated, though monitoring will continue.

Iran and Pakistan were found to have opium heroin addiction levels
which were among the highest in the world

And East and Southeast Asia saw a huge increase in the manufacture,
trafficking and use of amphetamines and the use of ecstasy.

Cannabis is the most widely used drug in Canada and in the US,
although cocaine abuse levels remained high, 1998-99 saw a 14%
decrease in usage among teenagers.

Ecstasy use, however, increased.

In central America, opium growth increased, as did heroin seizures in
Columbia. In Africa there were increasing numbers of seizures of
cannabis, heroin and psychotrophic substances in 1999. Cocaine
seizures fell.

Trafficking was also a major problem. The INB said half the world's
supply of cannabis resin passed through Morocco.

South Africa had the highest rate of abuse of the sedative drug
methaqualone Cannabis is the most widely used, and grown, drug in
Europe.

And there have been more seizures of heroin in Eastern Europe, where
abuse of the drug is an increasing problem.

In Australia, deaths and arrests associated with heroin. Demand for
ecstasy and LSD are increasing in New Zealand.
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