Drugs in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse
Extent of Drug Abuse:
Analgesics are reported the most abused drug according to a study in emergency rooms and detention centers in Panama. Analgesics lifetime prevalence in emergency rooms is estimated at 73 per cent, followed by tranquilizers (15 per cent), cannabis (7.6 per cent), cocaine (5.4 per cent), crack 1.7 per cent, and coca paste 1.2 per cent (CICAD 1993).
Analgesics lifetime prevalence in detention centre is estimated at 59 per cent, followed by tranquilizers (9 per cent), cannabis (13.2 per cent), cocaine (9.3 per cent), crack 3.6 per cent, and coca paste 3.1 per cent (CICAD 1993). High prevalence of abuse was also observed 24 hours before the interview: 17 per cent for cocaine and 22 per cent for crack in emergency rooms and about 1 per cent for cocaine and 28 per cent for crack in detention centers. Other drugs abused are stimulants, inhalants, hallucinogens and heroin (CICAD 1993).
Cocaine abuse prevalence in the general population is 4.4 per cent according to a study of the White Cross (CICAD 1993).
Abuser Characteristics: Most cocaine and cannabis abusers are young, below 24 years of age, according to a study in emergency rooms and detention centers in Panama (CICAD 1993).
Regional Variations: Most cases of drug abuse are reported in Panama City and most treatment facilities are also located there (PAHO 1990).
Trends: There has been a significant increase in the abuse of both cocaine and "basuco" (coca-paste). An increase in the abuse of cannabis has also been reported (U.N. 1988).
The Social Security Fund's Psychiatric Ward showed a steady rise in the percentage of drug dependent abusers treated: in 1983 the proportion was 3.3 per cent (10 out of 330); in 1984, 5.9 per cent (22 out of 376); and in 1985, 7 per cent (26 out of 372) (PAHO 1990).
Mode of intake: No unusual pattern has been reported; cannabis and "basuco" (coca paste) are smoked, cocaine is sniffed (U.N. 1988). IVDU is rare in Panama (PAHO 1990).

Cost and Consequences of Abuse
Until March 1988, out of 47 AIDS cases known, 6 were associated with IVDU (PAHO 1990).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy: The Ministry of Health, the Social Security Fund and the Institute of Forensic Medicine lead the Government's response to drug abuse in the country (PAHO 1990).

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

Demand Reduction Activities
Primary Prevention: 
Educational and informative activities in drug prevention are organized by the Ministry of Health's sub programme on Prevention and Control of Alcoholism and Pharmacodependency. The programmes are directed at adolescents and young people, as well as parents. These include seminars, workshops, and the distribution of educational material. Some programmes are organized by private organizations which are aimed at professionals involved in drug abuse services (U.N. 1988; PAHO 1990).
Drug abuse education and training at the undergraduate level for health professionals is reported to be adequate (PAHO 1990).
Treatment and Rehabilitation: Almost all regions have specialized mental health teams to treat drug related problems in the population. Treatment is provided in the country's general and psychiatric hospitals at the expense of the government (PAHO 1990).
Treatment for young people is also provided by the private sector. Mental health teams in Panama's hospitals bear the primary responsibility for treatment. Their treatment approach is primarily medical. In the community, psycho-social treatment models are more prevalent (PAHO 1990).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences:
In 1992, 657 people were arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs (CICAD 1993b).
Seizures: In 1990, 106.561 kg of cannabis herb and over 4 tonnes of cocaine (base and salts) were seized (Other 1990).
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 not available by 15th January 1994.

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

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

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

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.