Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

A national survey on consumption of tobacco, alcohol, medical preparations and illicit drugs was conducted among youth aged 15 to 18 years in 1990 (sample size 1,699). Findings indicate that about 16 per cent of the respondents consumed medical preparations at the time of the survey. Ten per cent of those consuming medical preparations reported abusing stimulants and tranquilizers during exam time. Stimulants were obtained through friends but most other medical preparations were prescribed by doctors (U.N. 1991).

            The survey also showed that the prevalence of current illicit drug abuse ranged from 5 to 6 per cent while "ever" abuse ranged from 12 to 16 per cent. The prevalence of "ever" abuse of cannabis is 10 per cent followed by 3 per cent hallucinogens, 2.7 per cent stimulants, 1.5 per cent cocaine and 0.4 per cent opiates. Table 1 summarizes the findings of the survey.

Table 1. Use of licit and illicit drugs among the 15 to 18 year old age range in 1990.
---------------Never    Previous           Current             Ever
Tobacco           56.5 -   12 -                  25.3 -              -
                        61.2     15.4                 29.6

Alcohol            32.2 -   2.3 -     60 -                 -
                        36.8     4          64.7
 ations              73 -      8.9 -     12.7 -              -
                        77.2     12        16.2
 Drugs              84.5 -   6.7 -     4.6 -                 12.1 -
                        87.9     9.4       6.9                   15.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------Sample size 1,699
Source: Reply to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1991.

                       Abuser Characteristics

Medical preparation abuse is more frequent among the 16 to 17 age group. Ever abuse of illicit drugs increases with age with the highest proportion concentrated in the 18 to 19 year old age group (U.N. 1991).

            Three surveys conducted in 1988, 1990 and 1991 in two regions (East Flanders and West Flanders) and one town (Anvers) have assessed the prevalence of illicit drug use in the 14 to 19 years old age group. The surveys found that illicit drug consumption is more common among males (5 per cent) than females (2.1 per cent) and among older youth (18 to 19 years of age). Consumption of medical preparations, however, is more common among female respondents (approximately 29 per cent compared to 16.4 per cent males) (see table 2).

            The prevalence of illicit drug abuse is related to the type of education: those undergoing technical education among the highest (18.3 per cent), followed by those in professional education (14.3 per cent) and general education (10.3 per cent) (U.N. 1991).

Table 2. Percentage of youth (14 to 19 year olds) consuming illicit drugs (1988, 1990 and 1991).

----------------West         Anvers         East
                        Flanders                       Flanders
Non users
 Total               95.6          86                95.7
 Male               94.5          -                  93.7
 Female            96.9          -                  97.9
Ex users
 Total               2.3            8.1               1.5
 Male               2.8            -                  1.9
 Female            1.8            -                  1.0
Current users
 Total               2.1            5.7               2.8
 Male               2.8            7.7               4.4
 Female            1.3            4.2               1.0
Non users
 Age 14-15      97.2          -                  99.5
        16            96.7          -                  97.8
        17            94.9          -                  95.4
        18-19       88             -                  88.9
Ex users
 Age 14-15      1.4            -                  0.3
        16            1.5            -                  0.8
        17            3.1            -                  1.6
        18-19       5.6            -                  3.3
Current users
 Age 14-15      1.3            2                  0.3
        16            1.9            5.2               1.4
        17            2.2            6.2               2.9
        18-19       5.6            8.6               7.8
Source: Reply to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1991.

                         Regional Variations

Attitudes towards drug abuse vary by region. In the Flemish region, abuse is perceived as a social problem whereas in Bruxelles and French speaking areas, it is seen as a moral problem. MDMA (Ecstasy) abuse is reported mainly in Northern Belgium (U.N. 1991).

            The three surveys mentioned above (1988, 1990 and 1991) show small regional variations in licit and illicit drug use (see table 2). While medical preparation abuse is twice as low in Anvers (14.4 per cent) as in East or West Flanders (21.8 per cent and 32.2 per cent respectively), illicit drug abuse is twice as prevalent in that town as in the other two regions (U.N. 1991).


An increase in multiple drug abuse is reported for 1991. Cocaine abuse increased slightly whereas heroin abuse remained stable. Abuse of MDMA in the North appears to be increasing. An increase in the abuse of anabolic steroids not in connection with sports is noted (U.N. 1991).

                             Mode of intake

No information reported in Annual Reports Questionnaire by 31st December 1993.


No studies regarding the costs and consequences of drug abuse, have been carried out. However, an increase in delinquency, violence, schooling problems and cost of prevention, treatment and social services have been reported (U.N. 1991).

            AIDS/HIV seroprevalence. Ten per cent of the total 2,010 AIDS cases in 1991, were drug abusers. The proportion of those seropositive and infected with AIDS is 12 per cent among drug abusers in the French speaking population and in Bruxelles, while it is 4.5 per cent in the Flemish community (Belgium 1991).

            Drug related deaths. A total of 41 drug related deaths in 1989 were reported (U.N. 1991).


                           National Strategy

A coordinating Committee (Commission de Coordination) was established in 1991 to coordinate all drug control activities. The Committee also has the mandate to centralize and publish official statistics and population survey results. The synthesis of the information is to be published in September 1993 (U.N. 1992).

      Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Ministry of Justice, Section: Criminal affairs, Coordination of the European Drug Abuse Control Committee (CELAD).


                           Treaty adherence

Belgium is party to the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol.  Several laws were passed exercising stricter control over the import and export of psychotropic substances. However, no intention has been stated that Belgium indeed intends to ratify the 1971 convention. For the 1988 Convention, matters are different. As reported for 1991, laws are being drafted with a view to ratifying the 1988 Convention. Measures have been taken to implement article 5 of the 1988 Convention.

    Measures taken with respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations:
Laws were enacted in 1990 to extend the possibilities for confiscation of assets and to make money-laundering a crime.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution:
There is a government-controlled licensing system for both narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Several narcotic drugs were reported being manufactured throughout 1991. For details of substances produced, see "Manufacture of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances under international control".

Control system:
(i) Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs. Prior to 1991, it was reported that the prescription requirement for psychotropic substances only included substances listed in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention.
(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: In 1989 and 1990, it was reported that a coordinating mechanism for competent authorities was created for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

                            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 both as an alternative and in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: For 1991, a commission was established in order to coordinate the collection of epidemiological data on drug abuse and to harmonize methodologies. Another task of the commission is to develop common prevention strategies for the different competent authorities.


                          Primary Prevention

Prevention activities are coordinated by two non governmental organizations, the "Comitי de Concertation sur l'alcool et les autres Drogues" (CCAD) in the French speaking community and the "Vereniging voor Alcohol" (VAD) in the Flemish community. CCAD coordinates prevention and training programmes as well as epidemiological studies. Three preventive models, aimed at youth 10 to 18 years of age, are in operation. In the Flemish community, drug abuse information is widely available to school teachers. Further, since 1988 specialist in preventive measures are working throughout the community (Belgium 1991).

            In addition, in the German speaking community, a preventive programme characterized by a global approach to health education has been in operation since the 1980s. Prevention teams consisting of non professionals who receive continuous training, work in schools, families, communes, work places, leisure activity areas and with doctors and pharmacists. Coordination with the other communities is ensured (Belgium 1991).

            Drug education is carried out in primary and secondary schools (since 1984 and 1992 respectively). Mass media campaigns have been carried out since 1990 (Belgium 1991).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Mobile mental health services consisting of specialist and non specialists are in operation. Treatment services are available in residential or semi-residential therapeutic communities and rehabilitation centres. "Substitution" programmes are operating on an experimental basis in large towns. Several psychiatric hospitals provide specialized services for alcoholics and drug abusers. Further, rehabilitation is carried out either in out-patient services, in day care centres or in-patient therapeutic communities (U.N. 1992).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

A total of 10,568 drug related offences were reported for 1991 (9,292 males and 1,276 females), 678 were for drug trafficking. Most persons convicted were over 20 years of age (72 per cent) (U.N. 1991).

            In 1991, most offences related to cannabis (6,219 persons) followed by heroin related offences (1,924 persons), cocaine (796), LSD (133) and amphetamines (105) (Belgium 1991).


Most seizures made in Belgium involve cannabis (more than 6,000 kilos in 1991), followed by heroin (1,732 seizures, 186 kg), cocaine (513 seizures, total 756 kg) hallucinogens (455 seizures, 2,454 kg, 75,812 units) and depressants (120 seizures, 0.54 kg, 1,020 units). Other drugs seized were LSD (2,417 units), synthetic narcotics, opium and morphine (U.N. 1991).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Cocaine seized originates from Latin America (mainly Colombia and Surinam). Approximately half is destined for the Belgium market, the other half is in transit to the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Span. About half of the seized heroin originates from Turkey; close to half, from South East and South West Asia and about five per cent, from Africa. Cannabis originates mainly from Africa. In 1991, some of the seized herbal cannabis originated from Colombia. Cannabis resin originated from Morocco (U.N. 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.

Belgium 1991. National Report of Belgium to the First Pan-European Ministerial Conference on co-operation in Illicit Drug Abuse Problems, Oslo 9-10 May 1991.