Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 drug abusers in France (U.N. 1990).

            Cannabis is the most abused drug (69 per cent of all people charged for abuse and/or for dealing) (see table 1). About ten per cent of those undergoing treatment in November 1989 were cannabis abusers (U.N. 1990).

            Fifty three per cent of those undergoing treatment were heroin addicts according to a monthly survey. Further, 27 per cent of those charged in 1990 were arrested for use of heroin (U.N. 1990; Statistiques 1990).

            Cocaine abuse is prevalent among 17.7 per cent of all charges for use of illicit drugs in 1990 and 2.1 per cent of those undergoing treatment.

            Psychotropic substances abuse is prevalent among 0.73 per cent of those charged for use of illicit drugs in 1990 and 9.8 per cent of those undergoing treatment. Cannabis and volatile solvents abuse is more pronounced among youth under 20 years of age, whereas, heroin abuse is more prevalent among the 20 to 30 years age group. Psychotropic substances abuse is more prevalent among abusers 30 years of age or older; with a high proportion of women (France 1991).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Abuse of drugs is more prevalent among men. About a third of the estimated drug abusers are women. Among convicted drug abusers, men constitute the largest proportion (89 per cent). Since 1972, this proportion has steadily been increasing (France 1991).

            The average age of drug abusers is increasing according to police arrest data, with the greatest proportion between 21 and 25 years old (36 per cent in 1990 compared to 38 per cent in 1983) followed by the 16 to 20 years old (33 per cent in 1990 compared to 41 per cent in 1983). In 1990 an increase in the number of under 16 years old abusers was observed (1.3 per cent in 1990 compared to 0.76 per cent in 1989). About 47 per cent of all those charged with drug related offences in 1990 were without profession (Statistiques 1990).

                         Regional Variations

Paris contributed 30 per cent of all drug related offences in 1990 (France 1990). The seven other regions were drug abuse is prominent are Aquitaine, Alsace, Nord Pas-de-Calais, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrיnיe, Rhפne-Alpes and Provence-Cפte d'Azure (CMO 1990). Further, an increase in drug abuse in rural areas was reported for the 1985 to 1989 period (Trautmann, C. 1989).


Drug abuse in France appear to be on an upwards trend according to arrests and seizure data. Drug related arrests increased by 2.10 per cent between 1989 and 1990 (table 1). The number of people charged with abuse and/or dealing in heroin decreased by 15 per cent since 1987. A similar trend was observed for cocaine (24 per cent less than in 1989). Cannabis related arrests, however, increased by 8.36 per cent. A decrease in opium related arrests observed since 1986, was confirmed in 1990 (0.26 per cent in 1986 of all abusers compared to 0.1 per cent in 1990) (Statistiques 1989 and 1990). The number of drug seizures and their size increased between 1989 and 1990 (see table 2 and France 1991).

                             Mode of intake

Heroin is mainly injected. Approximately 65 per cent of the total drug abusers in France are intravenous drug abusers (WHO 1991).


Drug related deaths. Three hundred and fifty drug related deaths were recorded in 1990, an increase of 10 per cent over the previous year. Ignorance or differences in the purity of the drugs is thought to be partly responsible for this progression. As has been the case in the past, the vast majority of these deaths (86 per cent in 1990) are linked with the use of heroin. Medical preparations are the second most frequent cause of death (7 per cent in 1990) (Statistiques 1990).

            In general, drug related deaths are more prevalent among males (82 per cent of cases in 1990) and the 21 to 30 years old group which account for almost 72 per cent of the total. However, in 1990, for the first time since 1980, the 26 to 30 years old group was more larger than that of 21 to 25.

            AIDS/HIV seroprevalence. Nineteen per cent of all AIDS case recorded in March 1990 were drug abusers (18.3 per cent in 1989 and 7.5 per cent in 1985). HIV prevalence among intravenous drug abusers was up to 58 per cent in 1990 (WHO 1991).


                           National strategy

An Interministerial Committee on Drugs and Drug Abuse was formed in 1989 to prepare government decisions on matters related to drug abuse. A General Delegation on Drugs and Drug Abuse (DGLDT) monitors the implementation of Guidelines laid down by the Government and the coherence of actions taken. An initial action programme adopted by the Council of Ministers in 1990, aimed at reinforcing the existing legislation and international structures. Programmes in the field of education, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation were set up and improvements in data collection are being made with the establishment of a "National Observatory" (France 1991)


                           Treaty adherence

France is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the Convention against Illicit Traffic on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.


                          Primary Prevention

Primary and secondary prevention focus on school programmes and youth. Some schools offer informative seminars led by specialists on drug abuse. Special training is offered to practitioners since 1988. A brochure drawn up for the attention of pharmacists has been disseminated all over France. Police forces also undertake preventive tasks and receive special training (U.N. 1990).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

In the early 1970s, a special scheme was implemented for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers which aimed at catering for each case on an individual basis. As a result, treatment is very divers in France and comprises:

- care centers (145 in 1990) for outpatient detoxification, psychotherapeutic follow up, preventive action and rehabilitation;
- special hospital units for the reception and detoxification of drug abusers (5 in 1990);
- post-cure accommodation centres for ex-addicts to prepare them for reintegration (58 centres, 678 beds in 1990) and,
- 218 host families (U.N. 1990).

            Since 1989 over the counter sale of syringes is legal and, in certain specialized centres, needle exchange programmes have been introduced (WHO 1991).
Two Paris hospitals ran pilot programmes of methadone substitution in 1990. The treatment is not aimed at maintenance but at drug discontinuance (France 1991).
Another programme gives the opportunity to first time drug trafficking offenders to have their sentence suspended in favor of treatment (France 1991).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1990, of the 34,213 people charged with drug related offences, 84 per cent (or 24,856) were drug abusers, abusers/dealers (4,159) and drug trafficking offenders (5,198) (Table 1, Statistiques 1990).

Table 1  Drug related offences 1989 and 1990.

-------------------------------------1989    1990    Change in % ---

Total number of arrests
         33,510 34,213 2.10

Total arrests for trafficking   4,418   5,198   17.66
Heroin                                      2,257   2,572   13.95
Cannabis                                  1,724   2,129   23.49
Cocaine                                    381      414      8.66
Other drugs                              56        83        48.21

Total arrests for abuse and
 abuse/dealing                        29,092 29,015 -0.26
Morphine                                 14        28        100
Heroin                                      1          4          300
Cocaine                                    9,525   8,061   -15.37
Cannabis                                  677      513      -24.22
LSD                                         18,544 20,094 8.36
Psychotropic substances           67        72        7.46
Volatile solvents                        235      211      -10.21
                                                28        32        14.29
Source: Usage et traffic de drogues en France. Statistiques 1990. Ministטre de l'Intיrieur.

            In 1990, most arrests for drug abuse and/or trafficking were related to cannabis (22,223), followed by cocaine (927), depressants (178), stimulants (109) and LSD (103). Only few cases involved opium (35) and morphine (5) (Statistiques 1990).

            Of the total number of persons charged with abuse and abuse/dealing in drugs, 89.45 per cent were male. The largest proportion (36.78 per cent) were between 21 and 25 years old, followed by the 16 to 20 age group (33.89 per cent) (Statistiques 1990).

            Drug related theft or attempted theft appears to be on the decrease (384 in 1990, a decrease of 26.3 per cent from 1989). Between 1985 and 1990 a decrease has been noted in theft or attempted thefts from pharmacies (38 per cent of the 1990 total), thefts from doctors (31 per cent), violent thefts against pharmacists or doctors (5 per cent), and thefts from other establishments (26 per cent). However, armed robberies and house breaks are reported to be on the increase (Statistiques 1990).


The number of drug traffickers arrested in 1990 increased by 10 per cent from the previous years, but the quantities of drugs seized went up significantly (1,844 kg of cocaine, up 50 per cent from 1989, heroin (405 kgs, up 37 per cent) and cannabis (21,289 kg, up 76 per cent from 1989) considerably increased since 1989. Quantities of opium seized and morphine remain low (4.979 kg and 0.855 kg respectively) (see table 2) (Statistiques 1990).

Table 2  Seizures of illicit drugs 1984 to 1986
----------------1984                1985           1986---
Opium (Kg)      4.766               4.661          5.142
Morphine base (kg)                                     5.200
Morphine (kg)  5.015               0.386          0.003
Heroin (kg)       208.756           277.586           219.509
Cocaine (kg)    122.436           95.960        257.509
LSD (doses)     28,389             1,1088        11,258
Cannabis herb
 (kg)                 9,041.839        2,725.900   1,282.394
Cannabis resin
 (kg)                 22,380.533      5,508.052   12,477.940
Cannabis oil
 (kg)                 53.510             13.862        16.397

Table 2 (contd....)  Seizures of illicit drugs 1987 to 1988
----------------1987                 1988
Opium (Kg)      3.191               2.378
Morphine base (kg)                  8.000
Morphine (kg)  0.062               0.122
Heroin (kg)       213.374               221.207
Cocaine (kg)    754.090               592.797
LSD (doses)     13,766             7,350
Cannabis herb
 (kg)                 1,035.886            6,222.211
Cannabis resin
 (kg)                 11,566.386          18,185.481
Cannabis oil
 (kg)                 10.981             17.123

Table 2 (contd....)  Seizures of illicit drugs 1989 to 1990
---------------1989                   1990
Opium (Kg)      3.758               4.979
Morphine base (kg)        
Morphine (kg)  0.548               0.855
Heroin (kg)       295.424               405.156
Cocaine (kg)    938.670               1,844.606
LSD (doses)     12,124             30,669
Cannabis herb
 (kg)                 1,628.155             453.761
Cannabis resin
 (kg)                 16,204.298          21,289.253
Cannabis oil
 (kg)                 19.431             10.564

Source: Statistiques 1990.

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Of the heroin seized in 1990, 14 per cent originated from South East Asia, 44 per cent from South West Asia, 18 per cent from the Near and Middle East and 19 per cent from the Netherlands (France 1991). About 56 per cent of the seized cocaine originated from Colombia and the remainder, mainly from Bolivia, Peru, Brazil and Equator (Statistiques 1990). About 64 per cent of the seized cannabis originated from Morocco (Statistiques 1990).

                       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 .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

Statistiques 1990. Usage et traffic de drogues en France. Statistiques 1990. Ministטre de l'Intיrieur.

Trautmann, C. 1989. Mission interministerielle de lutte contre la toxicomanie. Rapport au Premier Ministre. C. Trautmann 1989.

CMO 1990. Reply to UNDCP questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO), 1990.

U.N. 1990. Reply to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1990.

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

WHO 1991. AIDS among drug abusers in Europe.