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Drug Testing News

U.N. Warns Synthetic Drug Abuse on Rise

Tue Sep 23 2003

By AIDAN LEWIS, Associated Press Writer

ROME - The supply and use of synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy and amphetamines are soaring worldwide in part because the public doesn't realize how dangerous they can be, a U.N. report said Tuesday.

The report, presented at a news conference in Rome, estimated that global use of Ecstasy rose by 70 percent from 1995-1997 to 2000-2001, while use of amphetamines rose by 40 percent over the same period.

More than 40 million people worldwide, or 1 percent of all people 15 years or older, used amphetamine-type stimulants, known as ATS, in 2000-2001, the report said.

The report said seizures of the substances rose from about four tons in 1990-1991 to almost 40 tons in 2000-2001. It estimated the global value of the ATS industry at $65 billion a year.

The report, by the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said users are concentrated in Europe, North America and Asia, while manufacturers are found in the United States and Europe.

Use of the drugs can cause loss of memory and premature decline in other mental functions, and the drugs are wrongly perceived as less harmful than other illicit substances such as heroin and cocaine, the report said.

Officials called for governments to raise awareness about the dangers of ATS abuse and to crack down on suppliers.

"Government responses have to be stronger and better coordinated," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency.

John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called for a coordinated global campaign.

"We need leadership in the countries that are now sources of production, we need leadership and treatment and prevention and demand reduction programs, and we need to follow through internationally so that the criminals who live off poison and slavery do not use international boundaries as shields," Walters told reporters.