Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in the Americas

Trends in Drug Abuse in Latin America

A significant increase in the abuse of cocaine and synthetic narcotics was reported in 1988. A slower increase is noted in the abuse of benzodiazepines since the 1970's. Increases in the abuse of cocaine are attributed to lower prices and more availability due the use of Argentina as a transit country (U.N. 1988).


In the 1980-1990 period, there has been a reported increase in the abuse of illicit drugs. Both the annual and daily abuse increased (2 per cent and 1 per cent respectively) over approximately one decade (U.N. 1991).

     There has been some increase in the abuse of heroin, synthetic narcotic analgesics, cocaine and coca paste, hallucinogens, sedatives and volatile solvents. The increase in abuse is attributed to migration from rural to urban centers, unemployment, and insufficient incomes to sustain the typically large Bolivian families. Abuse is attributed to family disintegration and unemployment among non migrants (U.N. 1991).


According to the Sao Paulo School of Medicine poll, frequent drug consumption among students is increasing at a rate of nearly 25 per cent every two years. In a poll taken by the Rio de Janeiro State University in 1980, only 3 out of 100 students in Rio had already consumed drugs. In 1991, the figure was 20 out of 100 (JPRS 1991).

            There was a 23.8 per cent increase in lifetime drug abuse from 1987 (21.1 per cent) to 1989 (26.1 per cent) (Ministry of Health 1990).


Some increase in cocaine abuse was reported in 1991. This is attributed to the deteriorating economic situation and unemployment in the country as well as to increased availability. There have been no significant changes reported in the abuse of other drugs (U.N. 1991).


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).



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).

In 1991, an increase in cocaine abuse was reported. Some increase was reported in the abuse of cannabis and hallucinogenes, while some decrease was reported in the abuse of amphetamines and inhalents (U.N. 1991).



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).