Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

There are no estimates of prevalence of drug abusers in Japan (U.N. 1992). However, according records of law enforcement agencies, stimulants mainly methamphetamine - followed by cannabis are reported the most prevalent drugs abused by people who have been arrested. Heroin, opium and cocaine are reported not widely abused (Customs 1992). Organic solvents are reported abused mainly by adolescents (Japan 1993).

            A drug abuse registry is maintained by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In 1992, a total of 2,099 persons were registered under the Narcotics and Psychotropics Law of which 7 were reported new cases.  There were 10 reported new cases in 1991.  There were 583 persons reported registered in 1992 under the Mental Health Law (mainly for methamphetamine abuse), compared to 540 in 1991. A person registered by the Ministry of Health and Welfare remains in the registry for 5 years (U.N. 1991, 1992).

            A survey carried out in 1992 among young people between 15 and 25 years of age (sample size 600) in Tokyo and Osaka regarding abuse patterns was reported inconclusive. The strict law prohibiting illicit drug abuse was reported as a restricting factor in the responses to the survey (U.N. 1992).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Most abusers are males (75 per cent of the registered drug abusers in 1992). Among the hospitalized methamphetamine abusers, 93 per cent were in the 20 to 64 age bracket (U.N. 1992). Teenagers and youth in their twenties are reported to make up 71 per cent of the total number of cannabis related offenders (Ministry 1992).

                         Regional Variations

No remarkable regional variations in the extent and/or patterns of drug abuse were reported for 1992 (U.N. 1992).


The abuse of cannabis and methamphetamine was reported as stable for 1992 (U.N. 1992). However, other official sources reported a decrease in the abuse of stimulants pointing to a decrease in the number of violators of the Stimulant Control Law between 1986 and 1990, as well as to a decrease in the number of hospitalized methamphetamine abusers between 1982 and 1990 (Ministry 1992). The reported decrease in offences related to stimulants and the reported increase in those related to other drugs, particularly cocaine and cannabis, indicate a diversification of the drug abuse situation in Japan (HONLEA 1993).

                             Mode of intake

Methamphetamine is reported injected and cannabis is smoked. Multiple drug abuse is reported uncommon in 1992 (U.N. 1992).


The cost of compulsory hospitalization of drug addicts, estimated at about 800,000 Yens a year, is borne by the Government (U.N. 1992; CMO 1991).

            Drug related morbidity and/or mortality data is reported collected, but no data has been provided (CMO 1991).


                           National Strategy

Under the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Law, medical doctors, enforcement officials, public prosecutors etc. must report details of any drug abusers or suspected drug abusers (except for stimulant abusers) to be included in the registry maintained by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Under the Mental Health Law, all stimulant abusers in hospitals are also registered (U.N. 1991, 1992).

            The abuse of illicit drugs, whether by an drug dependant abuser or not, constitutes a crime punishable with imprisonment under laws in force in Japan. Suspect drug abusers may undergo urine tests and if positive, be arrested, prosecuted and given prison sentences (U.N. 1992).

            The goal of the Government's countermeasures against drug abuse is to prevent the illicit drug traffic and abolish drug abuse. In 1970, the Headquarters for Countermeasures Against Drug Abuse in the Prime Minister's Office was established to facilitate coordination of a comprehensive programme against drug abuse (Ministry 1992).


      Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Headquarters of Countermeasures of Drug Abuse, a part of the Prime Minister's Office.



                           Treaty adherence

Japan is party to the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention and the 1988 Convention.

    Measures taken with respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations:
None reported.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution:
There is a government-controlled licensing system for both narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances were manufactured in 1991 for details of substances manufactured, please refer to  the 1991 issue of "Manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Control system:
(i) Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. (ii) Warnings on packages: The law requires warnings on packages or accompanying leaflet information to safeguard the users of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. (iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: Propylhexedrine which was descheduled from the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, is still controlled in Japan. In 1990, it was reported that stereochemical variants of cathinone, lefetamine, and phenmetrazine were still controlled. (iv) Other administrative measures: None reported.

                            Social Measures

Penal Sanctions related to social measures: In 1991, courts applied measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence neither as an alternative nor in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: None reported.


                          Primary Prevention

Drug prevention activities and/or drug education programmes have been carried out in schools since 1993 and in institutions of higher education as of 1994 (CMO 1991). Drug prevention activities are designed to cover a broad range of social groups (U.N. 1992).

            Law enforcement agencies and the Drug Abuse Prevention Centre (a non-governmental organization) are involved in the formulation and implementation of prevention programmes targeted at the public as a whole. At the national level the Ministry of Health and Welfare coordinates national activities against narcotics and stimulants every year ("No, Absolutely No!"campaign in 1992) which includes the production and distribution of leaflets, posters, stickers etc. (U.N. 1992). Emergency aid centres are reported to be in operation (CMO 1991).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Drug abusers who are imprisoned, being in a drug-free environment, are reported often cured of addiction. However, penal control alone is reported not effective to reduce illicit demand, so medical treatment has also been introduced (U.N. 1992).

            Stimulant and narcotic abusers undergo compulsory hospital treatment as required under the Mental Health and the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Laws. Detoxification is compulsory for all drug dependent abusers. Drug free counselling and attendance at meetings of self-help groups are compulsory for all drug abusers undergoing treatment. In 1992, a total of 1,243 psychiatric hospitals provided treatment facilities for stimulant drug abusers and 9 general hospitals were designated for the treatment of narcotic abusers (U.N. 1992).

            Advice is provide by drug counsellor to ex-drug dependent abusers on reintegration (U.N. 1992).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

The majority of drug related arrests in Japan concern stimulants (mostly methamphetamine) with an reported average of more than 19,000 arrests a year between 1986 and 1990.  This constitutes a reported average 92.2 per cent of all drug related arrests during that period. Cannabis related arrests are the next most numerous with an average 1,478 cases a year between 1986 and 1990. Arrests related to cocaine and heroin are by comparison few (averaging of 66 and 61 arrests a year, respectively, between 1986 and 1990) (Customs 1992). Since 1986, when 2 arrests were made related to opium, no reported arrests for this drug occured again until 1991 when 24 persons were arrested for opium trafficking/abuse/possession (U.N. 1991). Other official sources report a large number of arrests related to organic solvents (toluene) abuse (23,485 cases in 1991) (Japan 1993).

            Of the total 2,876 persons convicted for drug related offences in 1991, most (2,391) were for trafficking and 485 for possession/abuse. Forty four per cent were unemployed and 55 per cent were in other non-specified occupations (U.N. 1991).

            Drug related offenders were reported to make up 27.5 per cent of the total prisoners in 1992. The majority (91.3 per cent) were males (U.N. 1992).


Most reported seizures carried out in Japan involve stimulants (mainly methamphetamine) and cannabis, followed by cocaine and heroin. Very few cases of seizures of opium are reported, with only 1 gram seized in 1990. However, in 1991, the quantity of seized opium reached 10.3 kg, causing concern over an increase in its smuggling and abuse (Customs 1992). In 1992, 166.2 kg of methamphetamine were seized. Seizures of cannabis totalled 237.6 kg in 1992. Other reported seizures were 31.4 kg of cocaine and 12.1 kg of heroin (HONLEA 1993).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Methamphetamine seized in Japan is reported to originate mainly from Taiwan (81.3 per cent of the seizures between 1987 and 1991) and China (60 per cent of the seizures in 1991). Korea, which had accounted for a considerable share of the total seized methamphetamine until 1986, has diminished to virtually zero since 1989. Seized cannabis originates mainly from the Philippines (37 per cent between 1987 and 1991), and Thailand (29 per cent). Other sources are India, China and the United States. Heroin seized in Japan is reported mainly in transit rather than for domestic consumption. Seized heroin originates mainly from Thailand and to a lesser extent Pakistan and Hong Kong and are destined for the United States and Europe. Latin America, mainly Colombia followed by Bolivia, is the main source of seized cocaine (Customs 1992).

                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1988-91.

U.N. 1991,1992. Replies to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1991 and 1992.

HONLEA 1993. Country Report of Japan to the Eighteenth Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), Asia and the Pacific. Seoul, 13-17 September 1993.

Customs 1992. "White Drugs" Report, Trends in Drugs Smuggling in Japan, Inspection Division, Customs and Tariff Bureau, Ministry of Finance. Japan, 1992.

Japan 1993. Current Drug Abuse Situation and Drug Demand Reduction Activities in Japan, Country Paper, 1 February 1993.

CMO 1991. Reply to the questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO) for the year 1991.

Ministry 1992. Brief account of drug abuse and countermeasures in Japan, Ministry of Health and Welfare. Japan, 1992.