Drugs in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse

Extent of Drug Abuse: Cannabis and tranquilizers (4.2 per cent each) are the most prevalent drugs abused in Ecuador according to a random sample of the Ecuador population. Abuse of tranquilizers is more prevalent among women (57 per cent) than men (43 per cent) while cannabis abuse is more prevalent among men (93 per cent) than women (7 per cent). These are followed by narcotics (3.8 per cent), where abuse by women (53 per cent) exceeds that of men (47 per cent). Barbiturates and inhalants are less prevalent, abused by 1.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent of the population respectively. Women (54 per cent) abuse barbiturate more than men (46 per cent), while men (59 per cent) abuse inhalants more than women (41 per cent)(table 1 and La Farmacodependencia en el Ecuador 1992).

Table 1. Drug Abusers in a Random Sample of the Population, 1992.
Drug-type                     Total                % of the population
Tranquilizers                 255                  4.2
Marijuana                     253                  4.2
Narcotics                     231                  3.8
Barbiturates                  108                  1.8
Inhalants                       103                  1.7
Cocaine                        67                    1.1
Coca Paste                   60                    1.0
Amphetamines              64                    1.1
Total                            1141                18.7%  
N= 6081 Source: La Farmacodependencia en el Ecuador. Ministerio de Salud Publica, UNDCP, 1992.

Abuser Characteristics: The profile of drug abusers varies with the type of drug consumed. Cocaine tends to be abused by the higher class while inhalants are more abused by the middle class. This is attributed to such factors as the cost of the drug, education and cultural differences (table 2 and U.N. 1990)

Table 2. Abusers Profile by Drug-type, Age, SES, Education Level and Sex.
Drug-type      Age      SES            Education Gender
Cocaine-type 30-39      higher   higher               male
Marijuana         30-39   higher   secondary         male
Amphetamines  20-29   lower    secondary        female
Barbiturates      50-59   lower    illiterate             female
Inhalants           10-19   lower    primary             male
Narcotics         20-29   higher   secondary          female
Vegetable-type 50-59   lower    primary             male
 Source: Pharmacodependency in Ecuador, Ministry of Public Health and UNDCP, 1992.

Regional Variations: In general, the cities of Quito, Guyaquil and those in the border make up areas where there is greater availability and greater consumption. Higher abuse rates have been also observed among the population of urban metropolitan areas (U.N. 1990).
Tranquilizers and barbiturates are consumed mostly in the metropolitan and amazon regions. Amphetamines are consumed in the amazon regions, followed by undeveloped regions. Narcotics, cannabis and inhalants are most consumed in amazon regions, followed by metropolitan regions. Cocaine consumption is highest in metropolitan regions and then in amazon areas. Vegetable-type drugs are consumed mainly in the amazon and urban regions (La Farmacodependencia en el Ecuador 1992).
Trends: Current trends could not be determined from information provided to UNDCP. However, according to a student survey in Quito, prevalence of abuse was estimated at 13.1 per cent in 1979, rising to 16.1 per cent in 1982 and declining to 11 per cent in 1984 (Pan American Health Organization 1990).
Mode of intake: Intravenous drug use is reported frequent in Ecuador (Pan American Health Organization 1990).

Costs and Consequences of Abuse
Up to 30 per cent of all traffic accidents are alcohol or drug-related (Pan American Health Organization 1990).
In 1991, there were 1793 cases of death among hospitalized drug abusers. Deaths were more frequent among non-dependent male abusers (1232) than dependent (359). There were also more death incidents among non-dependent (169), than dependent female abusers (33) (U.N. 1992).
Although Ecuador receives some international funding, the principal costs for the health care of drug dependent abusers are borne by the government (Pan American Health Organization 1990).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy: The National Council for Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances (CONSEP) is responsible for primary prevention, as well as coordination and supervision of all supply and demand reduction activities conducted by public and private institutions. It coordinates activities of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Well-being, Ministry of Defence and the Federal Police. The government coordinates prevention plans, formulates policies and delivers most of the treatment and social rehabilitation services to abusers (U.N. 1992).

Actions taken to implement International Drug Control Treaties **
Treaty adherence
: Ecuador 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:
Prevention programmes target students and teachers since 1987. In 1988-1992, publicity campaigns aimed at the whole population were carried by the mass media (TV, radio) with the collaboration of various ministries, private enterprises, detention centers and health professionals (CMO 1991).
There are also specific prevention activities and programmes for parents and children living in risk and marginal urban areas, as well for university students, community leaders and voluntaries (CMO 1991).
Ecuador receives technical and financial support for prevention programmes by the UNDCP, AID and UNESCO (CMO 1991)
Treatment and Rehabilitation: Treatment in 21 facilities (10 general hospitals, 5 primary care facilities, 3 psychiatric hospitals and 3 NGOs) are available to drug abusers in Ecuador. Detoxification is provided in general hospitals, drug free counselling to children and youth orientators, outreach programmes to service populations in remote ares as well as self and mutual help groups (i.e., volunteers and former abusers) (U.N. 1992).
In 1990, 1279 people were treated for drug abuse, most for cannabis abuse (57 per cent), followed by coca-type abuse (27 per cent), psychotropic substances (9 per cent) and inhalants abusers (7 per cent) (U.N. 1990).
A reported 27 per cent of the prison population are drug abusers, with 60.6 per cent male and 39.4 per cent female. All prisons provide general medical care and detoxification programmes to abusers (U.N. 1992).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences:
In 1989, 1480 people were arrested for illicit drug possession (1013 possessed cannabis and 467 people possessed cocaine) while 1133 for illicit drug traffic (758 people for cocaine traffic, 575 people for cannabis). Most of the people arrested for illegal possession were students between 20-24 years of age, while most of those arrested for drug traffic were workers over 30 years of age (U.N., 1989). In 1992 a total of 1465 persons were arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs (CICAD 1993).
Seizures: The amount of cannabis herb seized decreased from 498.241 kg in 1990 to 170.902 kg in 1991 and further down to 132.031 kg in 1992 (Other 1990, 1991, 1992).
Ecuador is the only country in the Americas where seizures of coca bush were reported in 1990, amounting to 19,380 units. In 1991, 72,799 units of coca leaf were seized. An increase was reported in cocaine (base and salts) seizures from 1,164.379 kg in 1991 to 3,892.014 kg in 1992 (Other 1990, 1991, 1992).
In 1992, 3.251 kg of heroin was seized (Other 1992).
Supply Source of Drugs: Ecuador is a transit country for the traffic of cocaine coming from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Drug traffickers use ports and airports in Ecuador for large scale international shipments concealed in agricultural products exported to the U.S.A. and Europe (U.N. 1989).

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.

U.N. 1989, 1990 and 1992  Replies to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the years 1989, 1990 and 1992. 

CICAD 1993. First Report to the Inter-American Data Bank to the CICAD.

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

La Farmacodependencia en el Ecuador 1992. Z, Dr. Enrique Aguilar. La Farmacodependencia en El Ecuador: Factores de Reisgo. Ministerio de Salud Publica and UNDCP. Quito. March 1992.

Other 1990,1991, 1992. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by the Government or from other official sources for the years 1990, 1991, and 1992.

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, pp.97-140. 1990.