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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 12:34 GMT
Prescription drugs 'over-used'
Venuzuelan National Guard seize cocaine in Puerto Ordan
Venuzuelan National Guard seize cocaine in Puerto Ordan
International experts say developed countries are using too many prescription drugs.

The UN International Narcotics Control Board issued the warning in its 2000 report.

It looked at the use of mood altering drugs like benzodiazepines.

It said the drugs were often given for what were social problems, such as unemployment or relationship difficulties, both in developed countries and those which were seeing fast economic growth, such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Cannabis is the most widely trafficked drug in Europe
Cannabis is the most widely trafficked drug in Europe
A survey by the INCB found many patients were prescribed the mood-altering stimulants to treat mental and psychological disorders, even though they were not diagnosed as mentally ill.

Benzodiazepines are a major problem. In Europe, the forms of drug used as a sedative are used three times as often as in the US.

But in the US, the forms of benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and obesity disorders are used 10 times more often than in Europe.

Loose prescription regulations, aggressive marketing and unethical prescribing were highlighted as problems.

'Oversupply' a problem

INCB president Professor Hamid Ghodse said an oversupply of drugs can be as big a problem as the under-supply of pain-relieving drugs to developing countries which last year's report highlighted.

"Up to 70% of long-term use of psychotrophic drugs is irrelevant and often prescribed for social reasons."

He said although an estimated 30% of the populations of developed countries were obese, the use of anti-obesity drugs was due to fashion.

He said: "People are too focused on making their shape into what is perceived as attractive."

Online trafficking of drugs on the internet was also highlighted as a growing problem.

Although the board said the internet was a low cost way of getting supplies to remote areas, it said it provided easy access to drugs.

Policing drugs trading on the internet is a high priority, said the board, which is urging governments to set up regulatory controls for online pharmacies.

It praised international co-operation between Thailand and the United States, through which online pharmacies were closed.

The Thailand-based pharmacies were a source of illegal drugs for addicts in the US.

International situation

The Vienna-based board of international experts oversees the implementation of UN drug treaties, and how countries are complying.

In Asia, the INCB said recent reports had made it cautiously optimistic that opium production in Afghanistan ha been virtually eradicated, though monitoring will continue.

Iran and Pakistan were found to have opium heroin addiction levels which were among the highest in the world

And East and Southeast Asia saw a huge increase in the manufacture, trafficking and use of amphetamines and the use of ecstasy.

Ecstasy : a growing problem
Ecstasy: A growing problem
Cannabis is the most widely used drug in Canada and in the US, although cocaine abuse levels remained high, 1998-99 saw a 14% decrease in usage among teenagers.

Ecstasy use, however, increased.

In central America, opium growth increased, as did heroin seizures in Columbia.

In Africa there were increasing numbers of seizures of cannabis, heroin and psychotrophic substances in 1999. Cocaine seizures fell.

Trafficking was also a major problem. The INB said half the world's supply of cannabis resin passed through Morocco.

South Africa had the highest rate of abuse of the sedative drug methaqualone

Cannabis is the most widely used, and grown, drug in Europe.

And there have been more seizures of heroin in Eastern Europe, where abuse of the drug is an increasing problem.

In Australia, deaths and arrests associated with heroin. Demand for ecstasy and LSD are increasing in New Zealand.

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See also:

22 Jan 01 | Americas
Fight against drugs makes headway
12 Feb 01 | Health
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19 Oct 00 | Health
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20 Feb 01 | Health
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