Drug Abuse in the Global Village

Trends in Drug Abuse
Extent of Drug Abuse:
Analgesics are the most abused drug according to a study, conducted in 1988, of the population over 12 years of age. Abuse in the six months prior to the study is estimated at about 8.3 per cent, followed by cannabis (5.6 per cent), tranquilizers (4.1 per cent), cocaine (1.7 per cent) and heroin (1.0 per cent) (Galicia, 1988).

Table 1. Drug abuse by type and frequency in Venezuela in 1988.
Type of Drug    Last Six Months           Occasionally#   Daily#
Analgesics        8.3%                5.0%                2.0%
Cannabis          5.6%                3.8%                1.2%
Tranquilizers     4.1%                1.8%                1.8%
Amphetamine   1.9%                1.2%                0.2%
Hypnotics         1.8%                1.0%                0.8%
Cocaine            1.7%                1.4%                0.1%
Heroin              1.0%                0.7%                0.2%
Hallucinogens   0.6%                0.3%                -
Morphine         0.4%                0.2%                0.1%
Inhalants           0.2%                0.1%                -
# Abuse in the last 30 days.
Occasionally: up to seven times a week.
Daily: every day.
Source: Plan Autonomico Drogodependencia, Galicia, 1988.

Abuser Characteristics: In 1990, 30 per cent of cocaine and cannabis abusers were women. A reported 20 per cent of the "basuco" (coca paste) and 10 per cent of inhalant abusers are women. Inhalant abusers tend to be youth 9 to 18 years of age. Cannabis abusers are aged 13-25, "basuco" abusers 18-28 and cocaine abusers 20-35 (U.N. 1990). According to a sample of abusers in treatment centers, abusers tend to be single males, 18-33 years of age (with the highest risk group aged 18-26 years). Most abusers are reported to have only primary education, and are no longer studying. Abusers start taking drugs between the ages of 12-16, using cannabis as an entry drug (U.N. 1991). Cocaine abusers are of all social groups, while abusers of coca-paste are reported to belong to lower socioeconomic status groups (CP 1991).
Regional Variations: Drug abuse is reported to be a problem predominantly in the urban areas, although it is prevalent elsewhere in the country (CP 1991).
Trends: In 1990, an increase in the abuse of cocaine and coca paste and some increase in the abuse of inhalants was reported. The increase is attributed to a rise in trafficking, social pressure and socio-economic deterioration relating to inflation and population impoverishment (U.N. 1990).
Mode of intake: Intravenous administration of drug is not common but an increase has been noted in recent years (PAHO 1990). Cocaine is mostly sniffed, although its injection is increasing and is believed to have produced a rise in the number of HIV infections among abusers (U.N. 1990).

Cost and Consequences of Abuse
In mid March 1992, over 120 persons were hospitalized with similar symptoms, and some 24 died within the following five days. The victims abused a mixture of cocaine and heroin ("Speedball" with 70 per cent heroin). It was suspected that the "Venezuelan Speedball" contained a higher percentage of heroin and possibly other toxic cutting agents (UNDCP 1992).
In 1990, the budget received by the Fundacion Jose Felix Ribas from the government, for its programmes of research, prevention and treatment of illicit drug abuse amounted to
27 million bolivars, of which 80 per cent was allocated to treatment. In 1991, the amount was increased to 37 million bolivars (U.N. 1991).
"Basuco" (coca paste) is a highly addictive substance, and its abuse causes serious respiratory diseases, as well as deaths from cerebrovascular accidents. Antimotivational syndrome and drop out from school are associated with the abuse of cannabis. Inhalant abuse, mostly by children, is associated with neurological complications and occupational accidents (U.N. 1990).

National Responses to Drug Abuse
National Strategy: The Organic Law on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances of 1984 consists of 198 articles and six sections covering general provisions, administrative order, crimes and consumption of regulated substances, as well as the establishment of the National Commission Against the Illegal Use of Drugs (CONACUID) (PAHO 1990). The CONACUID launched a National Plan on Drug Questions (PNO/CD), aimed at reducing drug abuse and problems associated with drug trafficking (CP 1991).

Actions Taken to Implement International Drug Control Treaties**
Treaty adherence:
Venezuela is party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol; The 1971 Convention, and The Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988 (ratified 16th July 1991).

Demand Reduction Activities
Primary Prevention:
The CONACUID, Ministries of Education and Justice coordinate prevention programmes. Prevention programmes were introduced in primary and secondary schools in 1990. These include courses and presentations targeting students and parents, as well as drug abuse training courses for teachers. Prevention programmes also aimed at community leaders and sportsmen. Random testing at the work place is used as a measure to prevent drug abuse among employees, especially if a suspicion of abuse exists. Random testing is also used during rehabilitation and as part of routine health check-ups. An Anti-Doping Law requires random testing among athletes. Some of these programmes are supported by the European Center Against Drugs which provides technical assistance (CMO 1991).
Mass media such as television, radio and newspapers are active in the campaign against drug abuse. Since 1981, the advertising of alcohol and cigarettes on radio and television has been prohibited and enforced effectively (PAHO 1990).
Treatment and Rehabilitation: The Ministry of Justice operates orientation centers for outpatient care but staffing is reported limited. The Ministry of Family participates in treatment, rehabilitation, and social reintegration through the Jose Felix Ribas Foundation (operating since 1985). There are also 6 hospitalization centers that function as treatment communities as well as 7 centers for outpatient care (PAHO 1990).
In 1988, an epidemiological study reported that for every four abusers seeking treatment, only one was provided with treatment (Galicia 1988).
The Ministries of Health and Social Welfare and Justice are responsible for treating prisoners who have problems with alcoholism or drug addiction. They operate one treatment and rehabilitation centre, i.e., the Unit for the Treatment of Addicts (UDAF)(PAHO 1990).
Since 1987, the Unit for the Treatment of Addicts (UDAF) has offered a one year theoretical-practical training course on drug abuse for psychiatrists and graduate level clinical psychologists with the aim to improve prevention and treatment services (PAHO 1990).
In 1991, 4,614 patients sought treatment for the first time, in a total of 10 non-hospital residential units, 9 primary care facilities, 5 psychiatric hospitals, 3 specialized detoxification facilities and one self help facility (CMO 1991).
In 1990, 2,277 persons (11.6 per 100 000 population) were treated, although 6 000 abusers requested treatment for the first time in this year. The relapse rate one year after treatment was reported at 50 per cent (U.N. 1990).
In a sample of 176 men and 21 women treated for drug abuse for the first time in 1991, "basuco" (coca paste) was the primary drug of abuse for males (75), followed by cocaine (52), cannabis (47), and volatile solvents (2). For women, the primary drug of abuse was cannabis (8), followed by cocaine (7), "basuco" (5) and volatile solvents (1) (CMO, 1991).

Supply Reduction Activities
Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences:
During 1991, 8,601 people were arrested for illegal drug possession and trafficking (CND, 1992). In 1989, 5,464 persons were arrested for possession of illicit drugs (28.76 per 100,000) while 1870 persons were arrested for illicit drug trafficking (CP 1991).In 1992, 14,063 persons were arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs, almost twice as many as those arrested in 1988 (CICAD 1993).
Seizures: Measures taken by the police and other forces have lead to results in 1991; over 11 tonnes of drugs were seized (77 per cent cocaine, 12 per cent "basuco" (coca paste), 11 per cent cannabis) (CND 1992).
In 1990, 64.3 tonnes of cannabis herb were seized, while 1.2 tonnes were seized in 1991. In 1990, 850,000 units of cannabis plants and 985.000 kg of cannabis seeds were seized. Cocaine (base and salts) seizures increased from 5.6 tonnes in 1990 to 9.8 tonnes in 1991 (Other 1990, 1991).
Supply Source of Drugs: Most of the illicit drug traffic is reported supplied by Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Trinidad (CP 1991).

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. 1990 1991. Replies to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the years 1990-1991. 
CICAD 1993. First Report of the Inter-American Data Bank to the CICAD. 1993

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

Galicia 1988. Xunta de Galicia 1988 Plan Autonomico Dorgodependencia. Direccion Xeral de Saude Publica, Conselleria de Sanidade, Xunta de Galicia, 1988.

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

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, pp97-140. 1990.

CP 1991. Questionnaire to the group of employees responsible for repression services UNDCP country profile for 1991

UNDCP 1992. Emergence of a Lethal Drug Mixture in Venezuela. Interoffice Memorandum. UNDCP, 31/03/1992.

Venezuela 1992 Intervention of the Delegation of Venezuela During the 35th Session of the CND. Vienna, 1992.