Drug Abuse in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse

Extent of Drug Abuse: Little statistical data is available in regard to the prevalence of drug abuse. Annual Reports Questionnaire (U.N.) key informants report that the most important drugs abused are opiates, synthetic narcotics, cocaine and coca-leaf, cannabis, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and hypnotic sedatives. Coca-leaf annual abuse is traditional and estimated at 200,000 cases (U.N. 1988).

Abuser Characteristics: In general, abusers are male. Abuse among women, however, is not negligible; for example, 10 per cent of coca-leaf and 60 per cent of amphetamines abusers are females. Opiate and cannabis abusers are between 15-25 years of age. Amphetamine abusers are between 15-50 years of age. Benzodiazepine abusers are between 15-75 years of age, with higher rates of abuse among women in the 25-55 age range and among both sexes in the 56-75 age range. Coca leaf abuse is widespread among those 18 to 70 years of age (U.N. 1988).
Opiates, cocaine and cannabis are abused by all social classes. Coca leaf is predominant among the lower class. Synthetic narcotics and amphetamines are more abused by the middle to high social classes (U.N. 1988).
Regional Variations: Abuse of synthetic narcotics is prevalent in large urban centres (cities with over 200,000 inhabitants). Abuse of coca leaf is common in urban as well as rural regions of the northeast (i.e., the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Tucuman).
Trends: A significant increase in the abuse of cocaine and synthetic narcotics was reported in 1988. A slower increase is noted in the abuse of benzodiazepines since the 1970's. Increases in the abuse of cocaine are attributed to lower prices and more availability due the use of Argentina as a transit country (U.N. 1988).
Mode of intake: Intravenous drug abuse is fairly high among addicts, at about 60 per cent (CMO, 1991). Cocaine, however, is injected and sniffed. Synthetic narcotics are injected as well as ingested (U.N. 1988). Of the AIDS cases known in 1988, 11 were IVDU's (6.7 per cent), 6 were bisexual IVDU's (3.7 per cent), and one was a homosexual IVDU (0.6 per cent) (PAHO 1990).
Opiates, amphetamines and benzodiazepines are mostly ingested; coca-leaf is chewed and cannabis is smoked. Multiple drug abuse is common (U.N. 1988).

Costs and Consequences of Abuse It is estimated that 5 per cent of the patients seen in hospital emergency services are related to drug abuse. Of these, 64 per cent were due to alcohol abuse, 20 per cent due to the ingestion of psychoactive medication and 16 per cent due to multiple drug abuse (PAHO 1990).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy: The National Commission Against Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse coordinates all efforts in the campaign against drugs. The Ministry of Health and Social Action sets standards for the production and marketing of pharmaceutical products, pursuant to the 1961 and 1971 Conventions (PAHO 1990).

Actions Taken to Implement International Drug Control Treaties **
Treaty adherence: Argentina is party to the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention and the 1988 Convention.

Demand Reduction Activities

Primary Prevention: A National Preventive Education Plan in the period of 1987-1989 was carried out. NGO's are involved in formulating and executing preventive programmes. Primary preventive models that predominated prevention efforts are those classified as ethical-legal and medical-health models. Publicity campaigns were designed for television and radio and received inofficial collaboration from professional health workers, law enforcement agencies and private organizations (PAHO 1990; CMO 1991).
Preventive education programmes were introduced in schools since 1989. Community wide leisure programmes for youth and parents aim to provide drugless alternative activities. Various (CMO 1991).
Drug prevention and treatment are part of the basic and continuing education of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, law enforcement personnel and teachers (CMO 1991).
Treatment and Rehabilitation: Several programmes stress social reintegration of treated addicts. Institutions report high rates of rehabilitation (about 80 per cent of addicts who completed the whole programme voluntarily). This high rate may be influenced by the observation that most addicts who drop out of treatment programmes, do so in the beginning of treatment. Most of the drop outs are opiate abusers. Most addicts in treatment are cocaine abusers (U.N. 1988).
In 1987, the National Center for Social Rehabilitation admitted 603 cases (476 males and 127 females). In the same year the Toxicological Care Fund attended 525 outpatient cases (420 males and 105 females) (PAHO 1990).
Treatment is financed by the State and carried out in public institutions. A portion of the revenues produced from gambling is used to finance prevention and treatment programs (PAHO 1990).
Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and former addicts are involved with the treatment of abusers. Special training programmes are designed to improve the quality of treatment services provided. International assistance has been provided by bilateral agreements with the governments of Costa Rica and Guatemala (CMO 1991).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences: In 1987, a total of 3,939 persons were arrested for drug related reasons, of whom 3,389 were males and 450 were females, and 10.4 per cent were minors (PAHO 1990). In 1988, 7,515 persons were arrested for illicit drug trafficking and possession, of whom 6,582 were males and 933 females. Most were over 18 years of age (6,066 males and 878 females), and 571 were minors (516 males, 55 females) (U.N. 1988).
A reported 10,000 persons were arrested by traffic or possession of illicit drugs in 1992, almost twice the number of people arrested in 1991 (5,949) (CICAD 1993).
Seizures: In 1990 a total of 658.064 kg of cannabis herb, 878 units of cannais plants, 1.579 kg of cannabis resin and 4.398 kg of cannabis seeds was seized. In 1991, the amount of cannabis plants seized increased to 1,063 units and the amount of cannabis resin seized increased to 2,080 kg (Other 1990; U.N. 1991).
In 1990, 30,778.483 kg of coca-leaf and 1,009.478 kg of cocaine (base and salts) was seized. This amount increased to 47,790.990 kg of coca-leaf and 1,275.680 kg of cocaine (base and salts) in 1991 (Other 1990; U.N. 1991).
In 1991, 439,306 units of depressants were seized (U.N. 1991).
Supply Source of Drugs: No information reported by 31st December 1993.

References and Notes


** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years ... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1988. Reply to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1988. 

CICAD 1993. First Report on the Inter- American Data Baqnk to the CICAD.

CMO 1991. Replies to the questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control for the year 1991.

Other 1990. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by the Government or from other official sources for the year 1990.

PAHO 1990. Epidemiologic Report on the Use and Abuse of Psychoactive Substances in 16 Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Bulletin of the Pan American Health Organization, Special Report. vol.24, no.1, 1990.