Those who lament the UN as a bastion of lefty luvvies should take heart from today’s release of the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Fresh from the trenches you might say….
The first ever UN global survey on amphetamines and ecstasy, claims that in the past 12 months, 34 million people worldwide have abused (but I think I’ll stick to “used”) amphetamine and methamphetamine, and 8 million used Ecstasy. This exceeds the number of cocaine and heroin users combined. Use is highest in East and South-East Asia, followed by Europe, Australia and the United States.
The UNODC survey points to the global nature of the ATS (Amphetamine Type Stimulants) problem. Unlike cocaine and heroin, whose production is limited by geography and climate, ATS can be produced anywhere. Currently, production is mainly in Europe and North America. Seizures of laboratories, equipment, precursors and finished products, as well as reports on abuse, indicate that the ATS market is changing in depth, breadth and shape.”
The report suggests that the international ATS trade generates USD 65 billion per year.
Australia is featured as the nation with the highest rate of ecstasy use in the world. The report claims that 2.9% of all Australians aged 15 and over used ecstasy in 2001, while 3.4% used amphetamines. We come in second (behind Thailand) in amphetamine use.
I’m not entirely convinced. I note that Holland and Belgium – from whence much of the world’s ecstasy is derived – come in towards the bottom of the usage statistics. I also note that the report’s tenor is very much towards the same zero tolerance/War on Drugs approach that produced a UNODC demand to the Australian government to cease funding needle exchange programs and to shut down the NSW government’s safe injecting room trial.
It offers the view that ecstasy use has “worrying health implications’ including “Neurotoxicity, an early decline in mental function and memory, or the onset of Alzheimer-type symptoms.” It doesn’t provide -at least in the press release – substantiation for those claims. I’ve downloaded the full PDF file and will persuse it at length but I’m left with the distinct – albeit initial – impression that the Report’s rationale is best encapsulated in this gem:
“The abuse of synthetic drugs risks becoming culturally sanctioned, blurring the notion of drug addiction, as parents and governments alike are confused about the severity of their impact. Especially alarming are occasional calls for some form of liberalisation of substances that have the potential to maim our youth.”
There are real and significant issues arising from drug use but the “terrifying threat” posed by people daring to think outside the box of the dismal and failed “War on Drugs” approach, is far less problematic, IMO, than the blinkered insistence on stifling it.