Drugs in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse
Extent of Drug Abuse:
Cannabis is the most prevalent drug abused in Colombia. Annual abuse is estimated at 0.4 per cent, according to a 1993 study of the Santa fe Foundation and the Direccion Nacional de Estupefacientes (DNE). Cocaine is the next most abused drug (0.2 per cent). Other drugs abused are "basuco" (coca paste) with prevalence estimated at less than one percent and heroin (0.01 per cent) (U.N. 1992).
According to a national household survey, "ever" abuse prevalence of cannabis, cocaine, "basuco" (coca paste) and opiates is estimated at 5.9 per cent (or 1.4 million persons). The highest level of ever abuse is higher for men (11.4 per cent) than women (1.9 per cent) (National Household Survey 1993).
Ever abuse of cannabis is the highest (5.3 per cent). Males abusers (10.4 per cent) exceed female (1.7 per cent) abusers. Abuse of both cocaine and "basuco" (coca paste) are estimated at 1.5 per cent, with higher abuse among males (about 3 per cent) than females (about 0.5 per cent). Heroin abuse is estimated at 0.05 per cent, a figure considered not significant statistically. (National Household Survey 1993).
Non medical abuse of psychoactive medicines and inhalants is estimated at about 8.4 per cent (almost two million people). Ever prevalence is higher for females (9.2 per cent) than males (7.2 per cent). Tranquilizers are the most abused (4.1 per cent), women (4.9 per cent) abusers exceed men (3 per cent). Abuse of sedatives such as barbiturates are estimated at 0.4 per cent, and amphetamines at about 0.6 per cent. Abuse of inhalants is about 3.8 per cent (National Household Survey 1993).
According to a study on drug consumption among secondary school students, 8.7 per cent abuse psychoactive substances. Of all abusers, 70 per cent abused drugs several times over their lifetime, 4 per cent abused drugs for a period of six months and 16 per cent consumed during two years or more. The most abused drugs were tranquilizers (69 per cent), marijuana (30 per cent), cocaine and "basuco" (coca paste) (19 per cent each). Most of the abusers were male, aged between 16 and 21 years (46 per cent) (CMO 1990).
About 78 per cent of the prison population consume drugs and 38 per cent are considered drug dependent. Male abusers (78 per cent) exceed females (13 per cent) (U.N. 1992).
Abuser Characteristics: Abusers of cannabis, cocaine, "basuco" (coca paste) and opiates are mostly male. Education is associated with increased abuse, reaching the highest percentages in the incomplete university level (National Household Survey 1993).
More than two thirds of psychoactive medicine abusers are women, with highest levels of abuse among those who completed secondary or high school (National Household Survey 1993).
Most inhalant abusers are male, about one third of which are between 12-17 years of age. Approximately 75 per cent reside in large cities, and almost 99 per cent have not completed high school (National Household Survey 1993).
 Results of a study with secondary school students show an abrupt increase in consumption from 13-15 to 16-18 age group (CMO 1990).
Regional Variations: According to a study on health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors there is a higher tolerance towards the abuse and traffic of drugs in Bogota and Eastern region, while the atlantic area was the most conservative (CMO 1990). According to other sources, Bogota and Antioquia had the highest percentages of drug abuse (11 per cent) for cannabis, cocaine, "basuco" (coca paste) and opiates, and Bogota also presented the highest prevalence of "ever" abuse of psychoactive medicines and inhalants (National Household Survey 1993)
Trends: In 1992 there has been an increase in the consumption of heroin and some decrease in cocaine abuse. The consumption of cannabis has remained stable (U.N. 1992).
According to a 1989 study of the University of Antioquia, little change occurred in the prevalence of consumption of cannabis (6.2 per cent in 1983 and 6.4 in 1989) and of "basuco" (coca paste) (5 per cent in 1983 and 4.6 per cent in 1989). Cocaine consumption, however, increased significantly from 4.2 per cent in 1983 to 14.3 per cent in 1989 (Antioquia 1989).
Mode of intake: There are no unusual patterns reported regarding mode of drug intake: cocaine is usually sniffed, heroin injected, "basuco" (coca paste) and cannabis smoked, hallucinogens, amphetamine-type and sedative-type drugs ingested. Multiple drug abuse is common (U.N. 1992).

Costs and Consequences of Abuse
Studies in Colombia associate economic consequences to the drug problem in the country. Among the problems associated are the dislocation of traditional agriculture, deforestation with severe ecological harm, migration to and colonization of illegal cultivation zones and the appearance of the "papoula" (poppy) in 1993 (U.N. 1992).
A 1992 study indicates to an increase in criminal behavior, violence and mortality (U.N. 1992).
According to the Ministry of Health, there were 1,231 HIV infected people in 1991, 1,742 AIDS patients and 791 AIDS deaths. The number attributed to drug abuse is unknown (CP 1991).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy
: Significant efforts are directed to the reduction of supply and demand within the context of a national plan and a draft drug control plan is being developed.
UNDCP assisted Colombia's drug control programmes in 1993 by contributing about 3.5 million dollars and 4.7 million dollars in 1994 (UNDCP, 1994).

Actions Taken to Implement International Drug Control Treaties**
Treaty adherence: Colombia is party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 protocol and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971.

Demand Reduction Activities
Primary Prevention
: The government is making some efforts to reduce drug consumption through prevention. Drug education programmes are provided to professionals, basic training to doctors, nurses and teachers, pharmacists and social workers. Drug education training workshops are organized for some businesses and organizations (about 1 per cent of work force). Drug prevention activities target youth and street children, as well as higher education students. The media is often used to promote drug prevention programmes (CMO 1990).
Efforts are also aimed at the training and education of health workers to enable them to direct prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of abusers of "papoula" (poppy) derivatives (CMO 1990).
Treatment and Rehabilitation: There are 131 treatment facilities in the country, include 40 in prisons, 21 non-hospital residential units, 21 self-help centers, 16 psychiatric hospitals, 13 specialized detoxification centers, 12 primary care facilities, 5 general hospitals and 3 others. Drug abusers have access to a number of programmes which include: detoxification programmes, maintenance programmes, drug free counselling, outreach programmes seeking out drug addicts in their environment, self help groups, support to families of drug addicts, emergency aid centers and acupuncture. Rehabilitation programmes include programs of social reinsertion (U.N. 1992).
The majority of drug abusers (over 90 per cent) are treated for "basuca" dependence. The University of Antioquia is also a WHO collaboration centre in matters relating to substance abuse (Antioquia 1990).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences
: The number of people arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs has varied over the last few years. In 1988, 5,596 people were arrested and in 1989 the number fell to 3,607 persons (CICAD 1993). In 1990, 2685 people were detained for drug trafficking offenses. There were 1.920 people detained for traffic of coca leaves, 145 detained traffic of cocaine and 620 people for the possession of cannabis (CP 1991). The number of persons arrested increased in 1991 to 6,389 and fell to 1,651 persons in 1992 (CICAD 1993).
Seizures: The quantity of cannabis herb seized has decreased from 653,322.000 kg in 1990 to 329,000.000 kg in 1991 and down to 205,678.000 kg in 1992 (UNDCP Field Office 1990, 1991, 1992).
The quantity of coca leaf reported seized  also decreased from 533,694.000 kg in 1990 to 140,000.000 kg in 1991 to 116,865 in 1992 (UNDCP Field Office 1990, 1991, 1992).
The quantity of cocaine (base and salts) seized increased to 72,630.000 kg in 1991 from 50,748.000 kg in 1990. However the quantity seized in 1992 decreased by about half to 37,764.000 kg (UNDCP Field Office 1990, 1991, 1992).
A total of 48.084 kg of heroin and 107.146 kg of opium (raw and prepared) was seized in 1992.  In 1991, 148.000 kg of opium (poppy seeds) was seized (UNDCP Field Office 1991, 1992).
Supply Source of Drugs: Most of the cocaine processed in Colombia comes from coca leaves grown in Bolivia and Peru. Coca cultivation is illegal but is grown in small patches in Colombia in remote areas (Thoumi 1992).
In 1989, drugs turnover was estimated at 3 billion dollars, and the amount returning to Colombia at one billion dollars (CP 1991). The government appears to be limited in its capacity to control the illegal drug industry. It is commonly held that as long as international demand remains high, the drug industry will continue to be important in Colombia and the region.

References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was not available by 15th January 1994.

Antioquia 1989. De Galvis,Yolanda Torres and Tobon, Lucia Perez "Alcoholism and Consumption of Substances Producing Dependency. University of Antioquia .Facultad Nocional de Salud Publica. Medellin. 1989.

Antioquia 1990. De Galivis, Yolanda Torres. "Current Epidemiology and Trends of Cocaine Use and Abuse: An International Review". University of Antioquia. Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica. Medellin. 1990.

U.N. 1992. Replies to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire (1992). 
CICAD 1993. First Report of the Inter-Amereican Data Bank to the CICAD.

CMO 1990, 1991. Replies to UNDCP questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO) (1990, 1991).

CP 1991 Country profile for the year 1991. UNDCP

National Household Survey 1993. Ospina,Edgar Rodriguez, Ramirez, Luis Fernando Duque, and Garcia, Jesus Rodriguez. National Household Survey of Drug Abuse 1993 Highlights. Santafe de Bogota, Colombia. March 1993.

UNDCP Field Office 1990,1991, 1992. Obtained seizure reports provided by the Government for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992.

Thoumi 1992. Thoumi, F.E. The Political Economy of Colombia and the Growth of the Illegal Psychoactive Drugs Industry. Essay part of a multi-country research project of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva. 1992.

UNDCP, 1994. Information provided by UNDCP, Latin American Section.