International Day Against Drug Abuse – 26 June
KUALA LUMPUR, 26 May 2007 - Nearly 200 million people around the world are using illicit drugs, equivalent to about 5 per cent of the global population age 15-64 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed in its 2006 World Drug Report.
Cannabis (marihuana, hashish, THC) leads by far with 162 million users, while ATS (amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, methcathinone) follow with 35 million users. Globally, an estimated 16 million people use opiates (opium, morphine, heroin, synthetic opiates) and some 13 million people use cocaine.
In Malaysia, the Government has recorded 300,241 drug users in the country between 1988 and 2006 with 18.49% already having tested HIV-positive. The National Drug Agency (Agensi Dadah Kebangsaan) registered as many as 22,811 drug users in 2006, 12,430 of whom were repeat offenders. According to data collected by the Agency, 97.97% of registered drug users are male while 71.04% are aged between 25 to 29 years old. Heroin and morphine are the drugs of choice in Malaysia, with 60.73% users. Most heroin users in Malaysia inject the drug intravenously.
International Day Against Drug Abuse, observed annually on 26 June, is a reminder to all of us to play our part to create momentum towards a world that is free from the harm of drug abuse. A three-year campaign with the theme "Do drugs control your life?” will be launched by the UNODC this year to focus on different aspects of drug control: drug abuse in 2007, drug cultivation and production in 2008, and illicit drug trafficking in 2009.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. No individual, family or community is safe where illicit drugs take control. Drugs may control the body and mind of individual consumers, the drug crop and drug cartels may control farmers, illicit trafficking and crime may control communities.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) believes that taking drugs OR not is about making informed choices. Better education and life skills are needed to inform young people about the potentially devastating effects of drugs and to help them resist the pressure to experiment. Efforts need to be in place to raise awareness that drugs are illegal because they are a problem; not a problem because they are illegal. Drugs cause health and mental problems. When addictive, they can spell misery for users and those close to them. When taken intravenously, they can spread HIV.
Governments, NGOs, schools, and the media must work hand-in-hand and our collective efforts must focus especially on young people -- through education, outreach, peer-to-peer networks, and using platforms that inspire young people such as sport, music and entertainment. Equally important is to engage and encourage parents and teachers to play their part in full.
In responding to HIV and drugs, we must be guided by the light of science and not the darkness of ignorance and fear. For us to be effective in fighting HIV/AIDS and doing right by our children in Malaysia, we need to treat drug users in a more humane way, respecting them as people with needs, and with families. When we help drug users remain free of HIV, we also protect their sexual partners, their future children) and the general community.
Our efforts also require working to reduce supply -- through law enforcement, and through working with the producing countries to give farmers sustainable alternatives to growing illicit crops. In this way, we must strive to tackle poverty and drug supply at the same time.
These are not easy challenges to meet. But we must never give in to the human toll illegal drugs are taking on our societies. In Malaysia, there are at least 300,000 too many people who abuse drugs. Unless we fight this threat with science and compassion, we cannot ease their suffering, or that of their loved ones.
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