Drugs in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse

Extent of Drug Abuse: Sedatives abuse is reported most prevalent ("ever" abuse 37 per cent and current abuse 12 per cent) according to a 1990 survey in 3 urban centers, on people 12-45 years of age. Cannabis was the next most prevalent (7 per cent and 3 per cent respectively), followed by inhalants (3 per cent and 1 per cent) and cocaine (1.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent) (CICAD 1993).
Among emergency room patients, analgesics are the most prevalent drugs abused (66 per cent), followed by stimulants (6.4 per cent), cannabis (3.4 per cent), inhalants (0.7 per cent), cocaine (0.6 per cent) and crack (0.4 per cent). In detention centers, prevalence of analgesics abuse is about 75 per cent, followed by cannabis (24 per cent), stimulants (15 per cent), inhalants (14 per cent) and cocaine (3 per cent) (CICAD 1993).
Marijuana is reported the most abused drug (50 per cent), according to a study on the population between 11-18 years of age, carried out in 1983. The study indicated that most abusers are males (90 per cent). Shoe glue was reported the next most prevalent drug (42 per cent), followed by tranquilizers (35 per cent), barbiturates (24 per cent), "quinazolonas" (24 per cent), ethilic-alcohol (22 per cent), thinner (18 per cent), hallucinogens (7 per cent), LSD (4 per cent), cocaine (3 per cent). Another drug, buprenorphone, is in high demand among drug addicts in Guatemala. It is sold by prescription in drug stores with special permission from the Ministry of Public Health. (U.N. 1991).
Abuser Characteristics: According to a study on a small sample of minors between 11-18 years of age, most drug abusers are males 15-18 year of age. Most obtain the drug in the street or in drug stores (U.N. 1991).
According to results of emergency room and detention center studies, most subjects reported starting abuse of drugs at the age of 17 years or younger. Lower age was reported for analgesics, at about 11 years of age, and inhalants at about 14 years of age (CICAD 1993).
Regional Variations: Use of cannabis, cocaine and inhalants is an urban problem according to a PAHO report (PAHO 1990).
Trends: A significant increase in the abuse of cannabis, barbiturates and tranquilizers was reported. There was also some increase in the abuse of hallucinogens, inhalants and ethylic alcohol. The increase in abuse is attributed to family problems and broken homes, as well as increased supply (U.N. 1991).
Mode of intake: Multiple drug abuse is reported common. Morphine, other opiates, synthetic narcotic analgesics, cocaine and tranquilizers are injected. Cocaine is also sniffed. Shoe glue is inhaled. Tranquilizers are also ingested, as are amphetamines, barbiturates and ethilic alcohol. Some hallucinogens are smoked (U.N. 1991).

Cost and Consequences of Abuse
Youth who abuse drugs report legal and family problems. Some had minor accidents while there were also few cases of serious/fatal drug abuse related accidents (U.N. 1991). Until august 1992, 300 cases of AIDS were reported. IVDUs contribution to AIDS could not be assessed (CMO 1991). In 1988, there was a total of 1765 drug related deaths; 1429 male and 336 female. Alcohol was reported as the main cause of death (CICAD 1993).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy: The National Council Against Alcohol and Drugs (Consejo Nacional contra el Alcoholismo y Drogas) is in charge of coordinating programmes for drug addiction. Its members include government ministries and NGOs. It offers no services directly but focuses on coordination. Most services are offered by the private sector (CMO 1991). Government response consists of legislation regulating production and sale of psychotropic substances; however, lack of resources are reported to hamper effective enforcement. Medications are sold without prescription, except for narcotics and some psychotropic drugs which are subject to strict control (PAHO 1990).

Actions Taken to Implement International Drug Control Treaties**
Treaty adherence: Guatemala is a signatory of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Drugs, and the 1988 Convention.

Demand Reduction Activities
Primary Prevention:Preventive education was introduced in 1991 in primary and secondary schools. Parents, youth and street children are also targeted. Professional and voluntary organizations are involved in programme development targeting the whole population. Parents associations are involved in programme development for students, abuser's self and mutual help groups organize programmes for the abusers population and law enforcement agencies organize programmes for the police.  Basic training programmes are part of the education of doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Further training is provided for other health workers, social workers, teachers and law enforcement personnel. Mass media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines organized drug prevention programmes for the youth, often sponsored by private entities (CMO 1991).

Treatment and Rehabilitation: Treatment services are mandated to the private sector, where expertise is weak and standardization in treatment lacking (CMO 1991). Two registered drug dependent abusers were reported. It is also reported that there is a high tendency to conceal addiction in the country (U.N. 1991). There are no reports of Programmes of prevention or treatment for abusers in prisons, with the exception of treatment for minors (CMO 1991).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences: In 1989, 117 people were arrested for possession of cannabis. Most are males aged between 20-29. A total of 220 people were arrested for drug trafficking, mostly males over 30 years of age. A reported 182 people were arrested for cannabis traffic, 26 for cocaine, 9 for cannabis resin plants and 3 for traffic of morphine (U.N. 1989).
Seizures: Seizures in Guatemala are reported as frequent. During 1991, the combined efforts of law enforcement resulted in the seizure of 15.4 metric tonnes of cocaine (an increase from the 3 metric tonnes seized in 1990) three aircrafts and one yacht. In february 1992, 466 kg of cocaine was seized from a private aircraft en route to the USA, coming from Colombia (WIM 1992). In 1987, the following seizures were reported: 2.52 kg of cocaine, 7.25 kg of cannabis, 108 cannabis resin plants, and 84 "units" of stimulants. Cultivation of poppies and cannabis was recently discovered (PAHO, 1990). In 1990, 53.000 kg of cannabis plants and 170,230 units of opium (plants and capsules) were seized (Other 1990).
Supply Source of Drugs: Colombians play a leading role in cocaine trafficking through Guatemala. Most of the cocaine is brought by light aircraft, with loads varying from 200-1000 kg for every shipment. Traffickers have the advantage that Guatemala has very little radar capability and is geographically located halfway between the USA and Colombia (WIM 1992).

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. 1991. Replies to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1991. 

CICAD 1993. Drug Surveillance in Central America, Panama, and Dominican Republic. Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse. CICAD/OAS/PAHO, 1993.

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

WIM 1992. Weekly Intelligence Message nr.23/92, 1992. Organisation Internationale de Police Criminelle, Interpol, Secretariat General, France.