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Drug Control Officials Are Warned of Growing Threat From 'Meth'

I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Among illegal drugs, methamphetamine now has more users worldwide than cocaine and heroin combined. That statement comes from the chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States.

Karen Tandy spoke this week at the International Drug Enforcement Conference, held by the D.E.A. and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. More than three hundred high-level officials from eighty countries gathered in Montreal.

Karen Tandy says marijuana is still the most widely used illegal drug, with an estimated one hundred sixty million users. But she said more than twenty-six million people use amphetamines, largely methamphetamine.

Meth is relatively easy to make and low cost. Users become highly dependent. And they can become violent or depressed. The drug is destructive to the body and the environment. The chemicals used to make it are poisonous and explosive. Even small laboratories in homes can require costly cleanup.

Last year the National Sheriffs' Association said: "The war on drugs in America is currently facing its most difficult and most dangerous challenge to date as a result of methamphetamines."

The increase in production is of growing concern to law enforcement officials around the world.

Officials say they have made some progress over the past year. Miz Tandy said officials last November raided a major methamphetamine laboratory in Indonesia. The seizure was a joint effort of the D.E.A. and agencies in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.

Also, Afghanistan cooperated with the United States to surrender two accused drug leaders who supported the former Taliban government. And Israel surrendered one of its citizens to face American charges of being a major trafficker of the drug ecstasy.

Among Arab governments, the New York Times reported this week that Dubai is moving aggressively to fight drugs. Efforts include educational campaigns and drug treatment programs. United Nations officials estimate that Arab countries have at least five hundred thousand users of illegal drugs.

The United Nations estimates that users worldwide spend more than three hundred twenty thousand million dollars each year. Miz Tandy noted that the amount is bigger than the economies of almost ninety percent of all countries.

She told the officials that cooperation and information-sharing are more important than ever. This is because drug intelligence can also aid terrorism investigators.

Opponents of criminal drug laws held their own meeting near the conference. They argue that United States policy has not been successful. Karen Tandy, however, said the number of adults, including young adults, who use illegal drugs has dropped.

Next year, the twenty-fifth anniversary International Drug Enforcement Conference will take place in Spain.

IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English was written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.