Side event: Sub-regional school-based drug abuse trends study in 6 Latin-American countries

This presentation from the UNODC Peru Country Office and countries involved provided an overview of a quantitative and qualitative project conducted in six countries in Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. About 70,000 students aged between 13 and 17 were interviewed.

Results:

– Alcohol consumption: it is the most consumed drug, with 7 out of 10 students having tried it at least once in their lifetimes, and 1 in 10 having tried it for the first time before reaching 15 years of age. No difference was observed regarding alcohol use across gender.

– Tobacco consumption: There is little perception of the risks associated with tobacco consumption. About 20% of students consume tobacco, and women seem to consume it more than men in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

– Inhalant consumption: inhalants are rarely used in these six countries. There is a uniform distribution of this substance throughout the countries studied, and the age of first consumption is lower than those for first consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

– Marijuana: between 0.7 and 7.5% of the population uses marijuana (whereas the world percentage is at 3.9%). It is the drug most used in the region, especially among the youth: 10% of the students interviewed had already used marijuana at least once. Marijuana is mostly used by men, but the difference of use by gender seems to be diminishing over the years. Perception of the risks associated with marijuana use and the easiness of access are determinant for marijuana use.

– Cocaine: between 0.1 and 2.7% of people use cocaine in the six countries studied (the world proportion of people using cocaine worldwide is of 0.27%), and is the second most used illicit drug. 3.7% of the students involved in this study reported having used cocaine at least once, and 40% of them affirmed having used it before reaching 15 years of age. The high perception of risks associated with cocaine use and easiness of access seems to be a protective factor for cocaine use.

– Unprocessed cocaine: prevalence of 1.5% among the population, most of whom come from the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society. 50% of unprocessed cocaine users tried it for the first time before reaching 15 years of age, and most of them are men.

– Poly-drug use: a third of drug users in 2009 also used other drugs.

Conclusions: It appears that the use of tobacco or alcohol increases by 10 to 20 times the possibility of illicit drug use. Alcohol and tobacco prevention would therefore be a useful way to start with the prevention of illicit drugs.

Between 2005 and 2007, alcohol use increased, while tobacco use decreased. Regarding illicit drugs, cocaine use increased, but the use of marijuana, unprocessed cocaine and inhalants has diminished.

Recommendations:
– Disseminate information
– Incorporate new dimensions for analysis
– Generate more information on unprocessed cocaine
– Evaluate new trends.

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