WASHINGTON, DC (CMC) — A new report by the Organization of American States (OAS) has found that drug use is appearing at young ages in many countries in the region.
The “Report on Drug Use in the Americas 2019,” prepared by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the OAS’ consultative and advisory body on the drug problem, contains statistics on drug use, including alcohol and tobacco, in 33 Western Hemisphere countries.
The report — which analyses drug use data in the Western Hemisphere and features information on the trends, challenges, and emerging issues of interest for policymakers and the general public — found that drug use is appearing at young ages in many regional countries “as young as the eighth grade”.
“The younger people begin using drugs, the greater the health risks and other consequences,” the report warned. “Prevention programmes and interventions that can delay the age when someone first uses drugs should be accorded high priority.”
The report also found that cannabis use among secondary school students is increasing in most countries that have trend data.
In addition, the report finds that half the countries show increases in cocaine use in the general population.
“Tobacco appears to be the only substance that is showing systematic decreases in use over time in the general population,” the report found.
It said that while drug use has historically been seen as a male phenomenon, recent data show that females in some countries are now using certain drugs either at the same, or at higher rates, than males.
Additionally, the report said misuse of tranquiliser pharmaceuticals is higher among females in every population in nearly every country.
“Non-medical use of prescription drugs, synthetic drugs, and opioids demonstrates how drug use patterns are changing,” it says. “The prevalence of new psychoactive substances (NPS), opioids, and benzodiazepines presents new challenges not only for drug treatment, but for public health and drug policies overall.”
The report says high-risk behaviours associated with alcohol, such as early initiation of use and binge drinking, are “a concern across the region”.
In 10 countries, prevalence among eighth grade students exceeded 20 per cent and, in three of these, exceeded 30 per cent, according to the report.
It says changes in the legal and regulatory status of marijuana have “continued unabated throughout the hemisphere,” adding that the decriminalisation of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes “has led to increased access for adults”.
“The report represents robust collaboration with OAS member states on data collection methodology, and careful analysis by CICAD experts,” said Ambassador Adam Namm, CICAD executive secretary.
“This document provides a snapshot of key indicators of drug consumption across the Americas, as well as unique, valuable information on trends that will assist in the design and implementation of more effective drug policies,” he added.