INCB Annual Report – Regional Highlights: Asia

Heroin is still a major concern in East and South-East Asia: governments to expand treatment services and demand reduction strategies – Abuse of pharmaceutical preparations in South Asia, governments take action collectively – In West Asia, illicit opium poppy cultivation threatens security.

Source : United Nations Information Service (UNIS) and INCB – Dianova International is an NGO accredited to the United Nations Office in Vienna

East and South-East Asia

Heroin Still a Major Concern

Increasing demand for heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants in East and South-East Asia has led Governments to expand drug treatment services and develop demand reduction strategies, although the focus of efforts continues to be on providing resources to combat drug trafficking and illicit drug manufacture. 

South Asia

Abuse of Pharmaceutical Preparations

South Asia is facing a serious and growing drug abuse problem, including the abuse of pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. For example, abuse of codeine preparations and “yaba” tablets containing methamphetamine has reached a high level and is growing rapidly in Bangladesh; drug abuse among youth is growing in Bhutan; prescription drug abuse is growing in India; in the Maldives, the first national drug use survey revealed a serious drug abuse problem; and in Nepal, the recorded number of users of drugs is increasing rapidly.

Governments Take Action Collectively

Governments in South Asia continue to respond strongly to the threat of drug trafficking and abuse in the region, including through an array of cooperation arrangements, both within and extending beyond the region. That cooperation takes the form of information-sharing among law enforcement agencies, training and technical assistance, cooperation on drug abuse prevention and treatment activities and training for treatment practitioners, as well as other activities in the area of reducing drug demand. Drugs enter South Asia’s illicit drug markets through a number of different channels, including diversion from India’s pharmaceutical industry, illicit cultivation and/or manufacture within the region, and smuggling from other countries, including Afghanistan (through Pakistan) and Myanmar. In addition to its existing plans to improve border security, as referred to in the INCB Annual Report for 2012, the Government of India has decided to build approximately 1,400 kilometers of strategic roadsalong its border with Nepal. In response to problems with the abuse of and trafficking in phensedyl (a codeine-based cough syrup), the Indian State of Bihar, which is close to India’s border with Bangladesh, has placed restrictions on the sale of phensedyl within its territory.

Access to internationally controlled substances for medical purposes (particularly opiates for pain relief) is limited in the region, and the region’s per capita medical consumption is well below the world average. 

West Asia

Illicit Opium Poppy Cultivation Threatens Security

Record-setting poppy cultivation and opium production in 2013 threaten an already fragile security situation in Afghanistan, and neighboring countries, at a time when international security forces begin their planned withdrawal. Afghanistan’s eradication efforts and ability to provide alternative development options for farmers have not improved. This situation, coupled with increasingly pervasive corruption in countries of West Asia, will require far more than statements of international cooperation if a meaningful and significant improvement to the lives of the people of West Asia is to be expected.