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Crystal meth use spreads: report

Crystal meth use spreads: report

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According to government figures, the number of drug users nationwide has dropped below 6,000, but methamphetamines dominate the diet of the Kingdom’s dedicated junkies

HENG CHIVOAN

A policeman peruses the new government report on illicit drug use and trafficking, the second of its kind, at a conference Tuesday.

WHILE illicit drug use in the Kingdom has remained stable over the last year, the prevalence of crystal methamphetamine could be on the rise, according to a new report by the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

The NACD's "Report on Illicit Drug Data and Routine Surveillance Systems," launched on Tuesday at the Cambodiana Hotel, documents illicit drug use throughout Cambodia and the routes by which drugs enter the country.

"This is the second report of its kind," Lars Pedersen, the head of Cambodia's UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said at the report's launch, adding that its aim was "to improve our understanding of the drug problem in Cambodia."

A key finding of the new report was the discovery of a laboratory on a farm in Kampong Speu where authorities seized chloroephedrine, a precursor chemical in the production of methamphetamine (yaba) and crystal methamphetamine (ice).

The overall number of illicit drug users in Cambodia has declined, the report stated. Government figures put the number at 5,797 in 2007, nearly 1,000 less than the previous year.

The report also noted that 1,719 drug users were admitted to government-run treatment centres in 2007, an increase of 57.7 percent from 2006.

More than 80 percent of these were admitted for methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine use. Two-thirds were between the ages of 16 and 25, and most were either students or unemployed.

The report also says that usage has spread from urban areas to rural parts of the country. Farmers and labourers comprised more than a third of drug users (37.8 percent), followed by street children (16.8 percent) and students (15.4 percent), according to the report.

"In previous years, drug use was largely confined to urban areas, but it is spreading into remote regions such as Kandal, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces," said Lour Ramin, the secretary-general of NACD.

He added that authorities have now expanded their ability to control drugs in all provinces of the Kingdom but that problems still remain.

"The quantity of drugs that cross our country makes us worry, particularly because we have arrested more drug users in 2008 than ever before," Lour Ramin said.

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