The number of recorded drug users in Cambodia declined by 8 percent last year compared to 2005, according to a new report from the National Authority for Combating Drugs.
The amount of amphetamines confiscated by police from drug smugglers went up more than 25 percent, while twice the number of heroin trafficking cases were uncovered, the report on 2006 states.
“The rate of drug use is down, but we are not satisfied with this figure yet,” NACD Secretary-General Lour Ramin said Tuesday.
According to the report, 6,500 drug users were recorded last year, compared to 7,074 in 2005. In 2000, official figures recorded a total of just 591 drug users. The numbers then increased dramatically each year until 2005, Lour Ramin said.
Last year’s decline may be due to the establishment of 10 government rehabilitation centers and other private centers run by NGOs to treat drug users, he said.
But according to David Harding, technical assistant for drug programs at the NGO Mith Samlanh/Friends, the “level of regular substance abuse has remained unchanged” among youths and children on the streets of Phnom Penh.
In 2005 as well as 2006, about 45 percent of the 1,800 street youths aged 8 to 25 who the NGO monitored in the capital were using drugs, he said.
“Substance use stayed pretty much the same, but the patterns have changed,” he said. There was a slight reduction in the use of heroin and methamphetamine last year due to their increased costs, he said. But this price increase led to a “big jump” in the use of crystal methamphetamine and inhalants such as glue, Harding said.
The increase in arrests of drug users and the use of rehabilitation centers has had the unfortunate side effect of sending some drug users underground, he said. He added that the skills of staff at rehabilitation centers remain rudimentary.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Tomei.)