x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

First-time drug users as young as 11

The average age for first-time drug users worldwide has dropped to 12, but in some countries in the Mena region it is as low as 11, the UN says.

DUBAI // The average age of first-time drug users worldwide has fallen to it lowest ever - just 12 years - according to a UN report.

And in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa that age is even lower, just 11, said M Mohammed Abdel Aziz, the regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC ).

"Our 2011 UN drug report shows that 210 million people around the world consume narcotics and 200,000 die every year from drug overdoses," he said. "The main issues that have to be tackled with narcotics are the new methods of presenting narcotics, like the development of designer drugs and new types of narcotics, the rate of demand of narcotics, like the introduction of new markets for youth, for example, and finally the relationship between organised criminals, money launderers and drug traffickers."

Mr Abdel Aziz said World Health Organisation figures showed that 3.3. per cent of the world's population used drugs at least once per year.

More than nine million people take drugs intravenously, he said, with an estimated 460,000 Aids-infected users in the Middle East and North Africa, according to UN reports.

The UNODC representative told the conference yesterday that global drug trafficking syndicates earned more than US$320 billion (Dh1.2 trillion) from the trade. "International smugglers and organised crime syndicates have become aware and more intent on being involved in drug trafficking, which [made more] in comparison with other illegal trafficking operations," he said.

Mr Abdel Aziz called for a review of drug legislation in Middle Eastern and North African countries, and said stronger policing of the drugs market would reduce demand. He also called for the development of a more efficient system of educating the public about drug laws, extending care and rehabilitation to first-time users, and raising awareness.