Methamphetamine use and production is rising in Cambodia and in the region, and users are shifting to a more dangerous form of the drug, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a new report released last week. Local health experts confirmed that crystalline methamphetamine, which poses greater health risks, is becoming increasingly available in the country.
“[G]reater availability of crystalline methamphetamine…is likely to be established with a subsequent increase in use” in Southeast Asia, according to the report, which was released Thursday, chronicling regional trends in the use of illicit stimulants.
“Clandestine [amphetamine-type] drug manufacture, while virtually unheard of prior to 2006, is increasingly taking place” in Cambodia, UNODC said, adding that a number of discoveries of drug manufacturing sites in 2009 indicate production in the country was likely to continue.
Moek Dara, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, denied drug production in Cambodia was increasing and said the NACD’s drug enforcement has improved. He said the authority had cracked down on four manufacturing sites this year before production started, adding, “The offenders were just setting up manufacturing and we cracked down on them on time.”
Graham Shaw, World Health Organization technical officer for harm reduction and HIV/AIDS, agreed that more methamphetamine users were shifting to the crystalline form, adding that this was a major concern for WHO. “I think the overall amount of users is relatively stable, but the proportion of crystal meth users is increasing,” Mr Shaw said, adding that the price of crystal methamphetamine, which can be injected, was becoming “more competitive” with the tablet forms of methamphetamine that are smoked.
“The price of crystal meth has come down from one year ago. People are able to buy it more easily,” he said. He said he thought between 5 and 10 percent of all methamphetamine users—estimated to be around 40,000 people by UNAIDS in 2005—use crystal methamphetamine, which can lead to the spread of HIV infections when injected.