A June 13 "snapshot" survey by street kids NGO Friends/Mith Samlanh suggests
that general drug use has peaked but that injection drug use has increased.
"There is an increase in use of injection by the 12 to 15-year-olds and although
the numbers are still low, at around 5%, that's the most worrying trend in terms
of HIV transmission," said Sebastien Marot, Friends Co-ordinator.
While the NGO was still in the process of analyzing survey data, the early indications
are that 2001 has not seen the large increases in drug use shown by previous surveys.
"Glue-sniffing seems to be stable or even receding, but use of amphetamines
is up among the 12 to 15-year-olds", Marot said.
Friends conducts the snapshot survey once every two years to determine the level
of drug taking on Phnom Penh streets.
"Street kids are an indicator of what's happening in society more generally,"
said Lyn Mayson, Friends technical advisor.
Since Friends began surveying street kids' drug use in 1996, they have seen the original
street kid scourge of glue-sniffing broaden to include a smorgasbord of narcotics
that includes amphetamines (ATS) as well as ecstasy and opiates.
While Mayson maintains that Cambodia has no history of drug abuse, between 1998 and
2000 Friends surveys have shown a doubling in drug use among street children. Previous
snapshots have shown 75% of those surveyed were glue sniffers.
According to Friends, drug addiction is used as a tool to lure children into criminal
networks, with drug dealers reportedly using child addicts to smuggle ATS from areas
along the Thai border.
Such bleak news is only slightly mollified by the Friends assessment that the availability
of cheap syringes means that, at this stage at least, Phnom Penh shooting galleries
can provide clean needles to their clients.