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UN drugs chief gives stark cocaine warning

At a meeting in London  today  to launch a campaign on shared responsibility and the global problem  of  illicit  drugs, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and  Crime  (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, warned Europe that it was heading for a cocaine crisis.

 "Wake  up  Europe!  You  are heading for a crisis", warned Mr. Costa. He said  that  both addicts and governments were in denial. "Cocaine users are not only harming themselves and, potentially, others. They are contributing to  the  destruction  of the environment, and bankrolling drug traffickers, insurgents  and terrorists. Keep that in mind next time you think a line of coke is trendy and harmless."

In  addressing the meeting, sponsored by the Government of Colombia, Mr. Costa  observed that in most of the world, demand for cocaine was stable or even  dropping. Coca cultivation had been slashed by a quarter in the past five  years.  Seizures of cocaine had almost doubled during that period. He noted that "an astounding 42 per cent of all cocaine produced was seized in 2005".

But  this drug control progress was being undercut by an upward trend in cocaine abuse in Europe,  particularly  in  Italy,  Spain and the United Kingdom. The level of cocaine use in Spain - which was 3 per cent among those  aged  5 to 64 - now exceeded (for the first time ever) levels of cocaine  use  in  the  United  States.  Ten years ago, in Spain 7 per cent of  all  new  clients  entering  treatment  for drug abuse were addicted to cocaine.  In  2002 it was 42 per cent: "I would bet that the proportion has continued to rise since then", said Mr. Costa 

The United Kingdom was not far behind.  In 2005, annual prevalence for cocaine use there was 2.4 per cent, up  from  0.6 per cent a decade earlier..

Costa added that  Europe had a credibility problem when telling Andean countries to reduce supply since the drug habits of Europeans were creating the demand that drives coca cultivation. In agreement with the host of the meeting,  Vice President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, Mr. Costa said that it  was  time to get serious about assuming a shared responsibility for the drug  problem,  for example by providing more assistance to coca farmers in order to encourage sustainable alternative development.

The  head of UNODC cautioned that supply control was not enough. Even if all  900-odd  tons  of  Andean  cocaine were seized this year, as many tons would  be  produced next year. And even if Andean farmers gave up all their coca crops, demand by the world's 13 million cocaine addicts would generate as much cultivation somewhere else.

"Plainly speaking", concluded Mr. Costa, "the mother of all drug control challenges  is drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation." He said this too  was  a  shared  responsibility for the entire community and that drugs were too big a problem to be left to drug experts.

Mr. Costa's complete statement is available at
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/speech_2006_11_02.html


by David Rogers newsroom@cen.at

austriantimes.at


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