On March 21 in Bogotá, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) released the Report on Drug Use in the Americas, 2011, the first analysis of drug trends in the Western Hemisphere, covering the period of 2002-2009.
The report points out that among licit drugs alcohol is the most widely used while among illicit drugs marijuana is most prevalent, notes the spread of cocaine use in Latin America and the Caribbean, and warns about the dangers of toxicity in cocaine base paste, a drug whose use is relatively infrequent but with highly adverse effects on health.
"Without scientific information, it is impossible to create good public policies to confront the problem successfully," said Ambassador Paul Simons, CICAD Executive Secretary.
The need for up-to-date, valid and reliable information on drug issues is central to drafting successful drug policies. This point is reiterated in the Hemispheric Drug Strategy, approved by CICAD in 2010, that underscores the need for public policies being based on scientific evidence.
"The most important finding of the report is the realization that there is no single drug problem in the Hemisphere," added Ambassador Simons. "The reality that our countries live is very diverse, both regarding the type of drugs that are used and the patterns of use. This report aims to show the reality of each country, instead of making comparisons among them."
The report was prepared by CICAD's Inter-American Observatory on Drugs (OID) based on the information provided by the national observatories or equivalent agencies of the countries, and represents a strong effort by the OAS member states to improve policies in benefit of the population.
Francisco Cumsille, OID chief, said, "We can observe differential patterns across regions and subregions, as well as differences within a country, which require specific public policies that respond to the different realities in which our countries live."
The report points out that alcohol is prevalent in almost all countries; however, the countries with greater prevalence of alcohol use are not necessarily the ones that have high levels of risky behavior with this substance. Above all, there is a special concern for the high prevalence of alcohol use in the school population (13-17 years old).
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among secondary students of most countries, although in some countries, the use of inhalants (chemical breathable vapors that produce psychoactive effects -- like solvents that contain toluene -- and are freely available in the open market) is higher than marijuana use in the same population. Some countries that have carried out studies of the university population have observed that the use of inhalants among women surpasses the use of marijuana in this group.
Cumsille said, "The use of cocaine has spread throughout almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is no longer a drug solely exported to the north; for instance, about 27% of cocaine consumers in the Hemisphere are found in South America."
"At the same time, cocaine base paste, a drug used almost exclusively in South America, has a more detrimental impact on health than other drugs, converting it into a problem that the affected countries already are following closely," warned Cumsille.
To the country, those countries with higher levels of perception of easy access to illicit drugs, are those countries where the use figures are also higher.
The study deals with trends of five groups of substances: alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, cocaine and related products, and non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, there is an analysis of the perceived risk associated with drug consumption and the ease of access to drugs
The study is available online now (841 kb, PDF, 103 pages). It contains 20 tables and 24 figures, as well as appendices with another 24 tables.
updated on 3/26/2012 1:15:38 PM