A new report by the Organization of American States (OAS) has found that drug use is appearing at young ages in many countries in the region.
The “Report on Drug Use in the Americas 2019,” prepared by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the OAS’ consultative and advisory body on the drug problem, contains statistics on drug use, including alcohol and tobacco, in 33 Western Hemisphere countries.
The report – which analyses drug use data in the Western Hemisphere and features information on the trends, challenges, and emerging issues of interest for policy-makers and the general public – finds that drug use is appearing at young ages in many regional countries “as young as the eighth grade.”
“The younger people begin using drugs, the greater the health risks and other consequences,” the report warns. “Prevention programs and interventions that can delay the age when someone first uses drugs should be accorded high priority.”
The report also finds that cannabis use among secondary school students is increasing in most countries that have trend data.
In addition, the report finds that half the countries show increases in cocaine use in the general population.
“Tobacco appears to be the only substance that is showing systematic decreases in use over time in the general population,” the report finds.
It says that while drug use has historically been seen as a male phenomenon, recent data show that females in some countries are now using certain drugs either at the same, or at higher rates, than males.
Additionally, the report says misuse of tranquiliser pharmaceuticals is higher among females in every population in nearly every country.
“Non-medical use of prescription drugs, synthetic drugs, and opioids demonstrates how drug use patterns are changing,” it says. “The prevalence of new psychoactive substances (NPS), opioids, and benzodiazepines presents new challenges not only for drug treatment but for public health and drug policies overall.”
The report says high-risk behaviours associated with alcohol, such as early initiation of use and binge drinking, are “a concern across the region.”
In 10 countries, prevalence among eighth grade students exceeded 20 per cent and, in three of these, exceeded 30 per cent, according to the report.