Press Releases

5 March 2008

INCB Calls for Proportionate Application of Drug Control Treaties across Countries

Insufficient  access to pain treatment medication; situation in Afghanistan and
other issues highlighted at launch of INCB Annual Report today in Vienna

VIENNA, 5 March (UN Information Service)  -- The disproportionate application of drug laws between different countries and regions is the focus of chapter one of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Annual Report, released today in Vienna, Austria.

In its Annual Report, the Board notes that instead of making a concerted effort at targeting major drug trafficking activities and their perpetrators, some countries focus an inordinate amount of attention on targeting low-level offenders and drug users. Also, offences of a similar nature are met with severe penalties in some countries - but treated with leniency in others. The Board also notes that when celebrities use illicit drugs, media reports often reflect or generate perceptions that the system treats celebrities, by virtue of their celebrity status, less strict than others.

"Disproportionate application of laws could undermine efforts to effectively implement the very conventions that these laws seek to enforce," said INCB President, Dr. Philip O. Emafo.

The Board also urges Member States to widen the availability and access to drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes in custodial settings and include non-custodial remedies such as mandatory treatment as an alternative to imprisonment.

Insufficient Access to Pain Treatment Medicines

The Annual Report notes that access to essential narcotic drugs used to treat acute and chronic pain remains insufficient in many countries around the world. The vast majority of these medications are consumed in Europe and North America - in 2006, Europe and North America accounted for 89 per cent of global consumption of morphine. In terms of population share, 80 per cent of total population, living in developing countries, consumes only 6 per cent of the worldwide morphine distribution. The situation is similar with other opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone.

The Board notes that the reasons for the low consumption are manifold and include inadequate medical education of health professionals and lack of knowledge of skills in pain treatment, attitudes, regulatory impediments and economic concerns. The low consumption is not the result of the low supply of raw materials needed for their manufacture, as the production of those materials is currently higher than demand for their use.

INCB President, Dr. Philip O. Emafo said: "Suggestions to further increase the supply of raw materials by using opium from the illicit production in Afghanistan are therefore misplaced as they do not address the cause of the problem. Governments should focus on measures to increase demand for pain-relief medications in line with the recommendations of INCB and the World Health Organization."

Continued availability of acetic anhydride in Afghanistan cause for alarm:

The Board warns of the availability of acetic anhydride, one of the main chemicals used in heroin manufacture, inside Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan has no legitimate need for the substance, acetic anhydride finds its way into the heroin-manufacturing areas of Afghanistan. INCB calls on concerned Governments to join forces to stop the trafficking of acetic anhydride into Afghanistan.

The report notes the continuing spread of opium poppy cultivation and an increase in the land surface dedicated to cannabis cultivation from 50,000 hectares in 2006 to 70,000 hectares in 2007. INCB reiterates its call to the Government of Afghanistan to address the ever- increasing drug problem in its country. The report reminds that, under article 14 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, invoked only in exceptional cases of severe and persistent treaty violations, the INCB can recommend an embargo against a country to the UN Economic and Social Council.

Regional Highlights

The report highlights major trends in drug abuse and trafficking, region by region, around the globe. West Africa is rapidly developing into a major smuggling route for cocaine from Latin America through and into Europe, the second largest market for cocaine in the world. West African traffickers are also targeting India, where cocaine is exchanged for South-West Asian heroin, bound for Europe or North America.

Afghanistan's illicit opium poppy cultivation has increased 17 per cent in 2007 and the country now accounts for 93 per cent of the global illicit market for opiates. Practically all the heroin in Europe comes from Afghanistan.

Cannabis remains the most prevalent drug in many countries in the world.

Africa and West Asia Emerging as Major Trans-Shipment Areas for Chemicals

The Board reports that a six- month long shipment tracking operation has revealed that drug traffickers are taking advantage of the often non-existent controls over pharmaceutical preparations containing precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), to traffic such consignments to African countries or West Asia. Africa and West Asia have therefore become the major trans-shipment areas for the diversion of precursors of ATS. INCB urges vigilance and requests Governments to control such pharmaceutical preparations the same way they control the raw material.

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For further information, contact:

Jaya Mohan
Information Officer, UNIS
Tel: (+43-1) 26060-4448