Withdrawal Symptoms Briefing

Changes in the Southeast Asian drugs market
23 August 2008
Policy briefing

This TNI briefing aims at contributing to a better understanding of current market dynamics in Southeast Asia, essential for designing more effective and sustainable policy responses consistent with human rights and harm reduction principles.

 
ISBN/ISSN
  • 1871-3408

Opium production in Southeast Asia has decreased significantly in the past decade. There is little reason for optimism, however. The decline has not reduced the supply of opium and heroin on the global market and there are serious questions about its sustainability. The abrupt decline has caused untold misery for opium farmers in the region, who do not yet have sufficient alternatives livelihoods in place. The situation is further complicated by acute land shortages exacerbated by Chinese investment in plantations in the region. Meanwhile, current levels of development assistance for Burma and Laos remain low.

The decline has led users to shift from smoking opium to injecting heroin, significantly contributing to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. Now signs are that the quality of heroin is declining while the price is increasing causing drug users to experiment with pharmaceutical cocktails. The new health risks are not yet known.

There is an urgent need to harmonize drug policies with HIV policies. Long-term support for harm reduction and health care programmes for drug users must be prioritised. Only a small proportion of intravenous drug users in need of harm reduction programmes have access to services. Sentences for minor drug offences are disproportionately high and need to be reviewed. Repressive legislation that criminalizes drug users further hampers access to treatment and prevention services.

The international community should not abandon (former) opium growing communities and drugs users at this critical stage of market changes in the Golden Triangle. National and local authorities in the region need to realise that these are complicated issues and there can be no quick fixes and onesize-fits-all solutions for drug-related problems.

This TNI briefing aims at contributing to a better understanding of current market dynamics in Southeast Asia, essential for designing more effective and sustainable policy responses consistent with human rights and harm reduction principles. 

Press release

  • Editorial
  • The Opium Decline: Figures, Facts & Fiction
  • The making of the Golden Triangle
  • High production figures during 1980s and 1990s – reality or myth?
  • Why did production decrease from 1997?
  • Is there a real decrease?
  • Southeast Asian opium and heroin in the global market
  • Poppies and Poverty: the Sustainability of the Decline
  • Impact opium decline on farmers in Burma and Laos
  • Coping strategies
  • Environmental concerns
  • Humanitarian crisis
  • Alternative Development: reality or myth?
  • Changing Market: Opium & Heroin
  • Opium: kicking the tradition
  • The opium and heroin trade
  • Changing Market: ATS & Pharmaceuticals
  • ATS boom: parallel or linked market?
  • Coping strategies: pharmaceuticals & syrups
  • Policy Responses: Inadequate and Disproportional
  • HIV/AIDS & harm reduction
  • Drug law enforcement & prisons
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

Pages: 40