Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia
Extent of Drug Abuse in South Asia


Heroin, opium, synthetic narcotics (pethidine), cannabis, and psychotropic substances (benzodiazepines and minor tranquilizers) are drugs reported abused in Bangladesh (U.N. 1990).

No systematic national epidemiological surveys have been carried out to assess the extent and nature of the drug abuse problem in the country. However, brown heroin is reported to be the main drug of abuse, with an estimated 100,000 abusers in 1991. Locally manufactured pethidine is reported as the second most common opiate type drug abused, but with limited abuse compared to that of heroin. Opium is reported available on the illicit market but not widely abused. Cannabis has been legally cultivated in Bangladesh since 1917 and reported widely abused (DNC 1991).


There are no registered drug abusers in Bhutan (U.N. 1989). No other information reported in Annual Reports Questionnaire by 31st December 1993.


In 1992/93, 270,173 registered addicts were reported by centres supported by the Ministry of Welfare. Drugs abused by registered addicts are opium (16.7 per cent), smack/brown sugar (12.9 per cent), heroin (5 per cent) and other drugs (12.6 per cent) (Singh, Dr. H. 1993).

There were an estimated 20,257 annual abusers of heroin and 16,210 annual abusers of opium (U.N. 1992). These registry data appear to focus on dependent abuse. Prevalence is likely to be higher. Cannabis and heroin are the most abused drugs in the general population (Ministry of Welfare 1992).



Cannabis, mainly in the form of oil, is reported the most abused drug, followed by benzodiazepines, mainly diazepam and nitrazepam. Heroin is reported abused but to a limited extent. In 1993, it was estimated that there were several thousand drug abusers in the capital, Male (Maldives 1993).


In 1993, the number of persons abusing drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and cannabis was estimated at 25,000 (Nepal 1993). Heroin is reported as the most abused illicit drug. Opium is reported as an important drug of abuse along with cannabis (U.N. 1990) which has long been accepted as part of the local culture (ESCAP 1993), but no information regarding the prevalence or extent of abuse of cannabis is reported. Other reported drugs abused are benzodiazepines, codeine based cough syrups, codeine tablets, amphetamines and methaqualone (Nepal 1993).

No national surveys on the prevalence of drug abuse have been carried out in Nepal, nor has a drug abuse registry been kept. The Government of Nepal has expressed the need for a national survey on alcohol and drug abuse (Nepal 1993).

A number of small scale studies have been undertaken providing some insight into the alcohol and drug abuse situation in Nepal. Results of a school survey carried out in Kathmandu (including Lalitpur) in 1992 (sample size 6,218) showed lifetime prevalence of 29.4 per cent for tobacco, 22 per cent for alcohol, 6.1 per cent for cannabis, 4.5 per cent for codeine based cough syrups, 3.3 per cent for tranquilizers, 2.5 per cent for amphetamines, 2.5 per cent for opium and 2.5 per cent for heroin (Nepal 1993).


Heroin and Cannabis are the most abused drugs in Sri Lanka. Estimated annual prevalence of heroin are 40,000 to 50,000 (U.N. 1990). Cannabis abusers are estimated to be about 200,000 (Sri Lanka 1993).

Approximately 55 per cent of the total prison population are drug abusers of which 2 per cent are females (U.N. 1992).

Cannabis is marketed as a drug for the treatment for sexual disorders under various names and people have consequently taken cannabis without their knowledge. There are no registered drug abusers in Sri Lanka (U.N. 1990).