Drug use and Addiction Increasing in Developing Countries

While drug use and addiction is not as prevalent in developing countries as it is in wealthy nations, illicit drug use is on the rise in developing regions such as Africa, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The manufacture of drugs is traditionally linked to developing nations while the primary consumers reside and purchase these substances from wealthy nations. However, recent trends have shown that more and more people in underprivileged nations are turning to drugs to cope with economic and social disparities. And because these nations do not have the infrastructure, public health and treatment support that developed nations have, the results of increasing numbers of addicts is likely to be an unmanageable burden in countries that already have very little resources.

According to the UN’s UNODC or Office on Drugs and Crime, use of synthetics drugs such as ecstasy and meth is on the rise, while traditional street drugs – opiates like heroin, cocaine and morphine, are steady or even on the decline in developing nations. This could have serious implications for the future of these countries, as traditional street drugs often provide a significant amount of income for underprivileged countries. Synthetic drugs may stretch already thin resources to help people who have become addicted to drugs. This is disturbing considering that synthetic drugs alone bring in more than $65 billion worldwide(1) – very little of which ever makes it into the public health or welfare system.

While the development of these poorer nations is generally perceived as a good thing, what often happens is that international markets open to these countries at about the same time and rate as illegal drug markets. And because of the proliferation of the internet and mobile technology, law enforcement efforts have largely been stymied despite significant drug busts in countries like Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and a number of Southeast Asia countries. And because synthetic drugs can be manufactured with chemicals that are readily available for most industrial and commercial purposes, tracking the origins of such drugs is nearly impossible, further complicating regulation and control efforts.

One of the most pressing concerns regarding drug abuse and addiction in developing nations is the association between drugs and crime. Poor countries already struggle with crime and violence related to poverty, and an increase in illicit drug use is likely to exacerbate these issues significantly. The rise of individuals and groups that manufacture, transport and distribute these drugs will almost certainly lead to an increase in gang related violence and violence between these groups and law enforcement.

Developing nations already coping with public health concerns such as sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and hepatitis are also at great risk as a result of increasing drug use. Promiscuity, rape, sexual assault and prostitution associated with drug use and addiction will likely compound these problems and could result in an epidemic of both addiction and disease simultaneously.

While the demand for illicit drugs in developed nations has been well established and remains largely unwavering, demand for drugs in developing countries is more difficult to define. This is because drugs are not as easily available, there is little money to support such habits, and law enforcement and public health bodies are largely underfunded and understaffed. Therefore, predicting the potential supply of drugs to these countries based upon the perceived demand is not as easy as it is in nations with long-established drug use and addiction statistics.

Overall, the increased demand for drugs in developing nations indicates a larger world problem that doesn’t seem to be affected by region, economic standing, or any other factor: addiction is a human condition and wherever drugs are to be found, people will use them. Therefore, education about the risks of drug abuse is critical in order to mitigate the worldwide effects of addiction and long-term substance abuse.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with a drug problem, you can get a free, confidential consultation right now that will clearly outline your options for you. This could include inpatient treatment, counseling or therapy, or even an outpatient program.

(1) Bethany Bell Developing World Drug use ‘Up’ BBC News September 9, 2008

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