Alarm at Europe cocaine use rise

THE SUNDAY TIMES, 26.03.07.
Alarm at Europe cocaine use rise
A UN report says cocaine use in Europe has reached record levels with an estimated 3.5 million people taking the drug — a quarter of worldwide users. The report also warns of a continuing rise in cannabis use around the world. The US remains the world’s largest single cocaine market with more than 40% of all users of the highly addictive drug based there. It also says Colombia accounted for one third of global cocaine seizures in 2006.
UN executive director Antonio Maria Costa said it was up to richer countries to help the developing world fight the drugs problem — either by assisting in drug enforcement or by offering South American coca farmers the investments they need to switch to legal crops.

Speaking at a press conference where the annual report was presented, Mr Costa said that demand for cocaine in Western Europe was «rising to alarming levels». «I urge European Union governments not to ignore this peril. Too many professional, educated Europeans use cocaine, often denying their addiction, and drug abuse by celebrities is often presented uncritically by the media, leaving young people confused and vulnerable.»
The report also warned about a continuing rise in cannabis use, estimated to have been consumed by 162 million people at least once since 2004 — equivalent to 4% of the worldwide population aged 15-64. Mr Costa, warned that cannabis was now much stronger than in past decades and that it should not be regarded as a «soft» drug. «Today, the harmful characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs such as cocaine and heroin,» he said, referring to mounting evidence linking cannabis use to mental illness.
The UN watchdog also warned that opium production in Afghanistan could surge again this year, saying efforts to stamp out production were being hampered by persistent lawlessness. There was some good news in that authorities’ confiscation of drugs, especially cocaine, reached record highs, Mr Costa noted. The US uncovered the largest number of methamphetamine laboratories — more than 17,000 in 2004 — over 90% of those dismantled worldwide. However, he insisted that governments needed to do much more to curb both supply and demand. «A coherent, long-term strategy can reduce supply, demand and trafficking… if this does not happen, it will be because some nations fail to take the drug issue seriously and pursue inadequate policies,» Mr Costa said.
THE TIMES. 3.01.07.

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