Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



Extent of Drug Abuse

The two most common drugs of abuse are reported to be cannabis and methamphetamine hydrochloride ('shabu'). Opiate abuse is practically non-existent in Philippines. Up to 1991, cannabis was the most abused drug, but in 1992 'shabu' became the number one drug of abuse (Philippines 1991). In 1992, there were an estimated 166,500 annual abusers of cannabis and 168,000 annual abusers of 'shabu' (U.N. 1992).

Abuser Characteristics

About 89 per cent of the abusers are males and the mean age of drug abusers is 25 years. Most reported drug abusers (47.3 per cent) are unemployed, followed by workers and employees (18.3 per cent), and students (13.4 per cent). About 29 per cent of the abusers attended high school (18.1 per cent graduated) and 23.6 per cent attended college (7.1 per cent graduated) (Philippines 1992).

Regional Variations

Drug abuse (especially 'shabu') is reported rampant in metropolitan Manila and other urban centres and affects mostly those in the middle to upper levels of society (U.N. 1992).


Some increase in the abuse of methamphetamine, stable abuse of cannabis, some decrease in the abuse of heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, amphetamine, benzodiazepines and volatile solvents, and large decrease in the abuse of opium were reported for 1992. An increase of female abusers was also reported (U.N. 1992).


Mode of intake

Reports state that 'Shabu' is inhaled and ingested, cannabis is ingested and smoked, opium is inhaled, heroin and morphine are injected and cocaine is inhaled and sniffed. Most of the drugs are reported taken in combination with others: cannabis and 'shabu' with cough syrup, cannabis with alcoholic beverages (mainly beer) etc. (U.N. 1992).



Studies have not been conducted regarding the costs or consequences of drug abuse (U.N. 1991, 1992). Even though it was reported that illicit drug production and trafficking have a minimal effect on the national economy, some observers believe that cannabis production could become a serious problem. In the Northern Luzon, a number of farmers are reported to have shifted from vegetables and rice to cannabis cultivation (U.N. 1989).


National Strategy

Coordination of the national drug strategy is done by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB). During 1991 and 1992, 4 Board Regulations were issued by the DDB. In response to the growing problem of drug abuse, the DDB intensified its comprehensive drug abuse prevention efforts. With assistance from international agencies, both governmental and non-governmental agencies reported an increase in drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation programmes for 1991 (Philippines 1991).

Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Dangerous Drugs Board.


Treaty adherence

Philippines is party to the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol and the 1971 Convention. With respect to the 1988 Convention, ratification was pending with the Senate in 1991.


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 narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. No manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs was reported for 1991.

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: None reported. (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 in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: In 1991, it was established that a person who has volunteered for treatment and rehabilitation of  and who after psychiatric examination if found to be psychotic, shall be transferred to the proper psychiatric, mental hospital for treatment until cure is completed, whereafter this person shall be returned to the treatment centres for treatment and rehabilitation of his drug dependence.


Primary Prevention

Drug prevention activities and drug education programmes exist in all educational institutions. Drug education programmes are also part of the instruction given to professionals like doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers. Prevention activities, which are supported by international organizations, are also conducted for special groups like parents, youth or street children (U.N. 1992).

Various prevention programmes are conducted for workers in their workplaces, and for the public at large. Mass media are active in promoting drug prevention programmes, and numerous groups and agencies are involved in the formulation and implementation of prevention programmes (U.N. 1992).

Treatment and Rehabilitation

There are 29 treatment centres for drug addicts in Philippines: 18 non-hospital residential units and 11 "drop in centres". In 1992, a reported 2,948 patients (including 357 females) sought help for the first time in these centres. Drug dependent abusers are referred to the centres by courts, law enforcement officers, relatives, school authorities or by the abusers themselves. They will be assessed by the Central Screening and Referral Unit of the DDB to find out if their personality will suit the programmes (U.N. 1992).

Treatment programmes include detoxification, drug free counselling, seeking out drug dependent abusers in their environment, outreach programmes, self help groups and support to families of drug abusers. Training for working with drug abusers is given to physicians, psychologists, social workers and chemists/medical technologists (U.N. 1992).



Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1992, a reported 839 persons were arrested for possession and/or abuse of illicit drugs (1,359 in 1991) and 1,123 (1,503 in 1991) for illicit traffick. In 1992, 159 persons (including 10 females) were convicted for drug related crimes (76 for possession, 83 for trafficking).  In 1991, the reported total convictions for drug related crimes was 240 (U.N. 1991, 1992).


Most of the reported seizures involved cannabis. In 1991, 1,267.85 kg of cannabis herbs, 0.75 kg of cannabis resin and 702.96 kg of cannabis seed were seized. Seizures in 1990 were 1,083.70 kg of cannabis herb, 19.13 kg of cannabis resin and 1,521.86 kg of cannabis seed (U.N. 1990, 1991).

In 1991, a total of 15.6 kg of heroin from Thailand was seized, which was bound for the USA, (30.1 kg in 1990). About 150 kg of 'shabu' was reported seized in 1991, of which, 95 per cent came from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China and were seized at the port. In the same year, a total of over 10 million cannabis plants were detected and destroyed (Philippines 1991).

Supply Source of Drugs

The climatic conditions of Philippines are optimal for the growth of cannabis. The cultivations are concentrated in the mountains and inaccessible areas of Northern Luzon and Central Visayas. During 1991 and 1992, indications of the existence of clandestine laboratories for the production of 'shabu' and hashish were reported (Philippines 1991).

The traffick of illegal drugs into, through and out of Philippines increased during 1991 and 1992. Philippines is a transit country for heroin from Thailand to the USA, Australia and some countries in Europe (Philippines 1991).

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. 1989,1990,1991,1992. Replies to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992.

Philippines 1992. Philippine Country Report. Presented during the International Conference of Drug Control Experts. Abu Dhabi, UAE, 3-8 October 1992.

Philippines 1991. Philippine Country Report. CY's 1991 - 1992 (January - June).