"…Let us resolve that at this special session of the General Assembly, words lead to action and that this action leads to success. Drug abuse is a time bomb ticking away in the heart of our civilization. We must now find measures to deal with it before it explodes and destroys us."
—Secretary-General Javier Pérez De Cuéllar (From remarks to the 17th Special Session of the General Assembly, 20 February 1990)
Until the end of the 19th century, trade in narcotics was considered a legitimate business. Misuse of addiction-producing substances—opium, coca leaf, and Indian hemp—was thought to be the result of ingrained habits in particular areas of the world. The problem was considered a domestic one. However, modern technology and the expansion of transport and world trade introduced a new dimension. An increasing number of alkaloids and derivatives were being produced from opium and coca leaves and easily distributed. In addition, a large number of psychotropic substances (depressors of the central nervous system such as barbiturates, stimulants of the central nervous system such as amphetamines, and hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD) were developed and their consumption increased enormously; hence, problems once considered local became global.
The UN exercises functions and powers relating to the worldwide control of narcotic drugs in accordance with a number of international treaties concluded since 1912, when the first International Opium Convention was signed at The Hague. By 1994, the majority of countries were parties to one or more of the treaties. The international control system is based on the cooperation of the states that are bound by these treaties in controlling the manufacture and sale of drugs within their jurisdiction. The treaties stipulate that these states are bound to adopt appropriate legislation, introduce necessary administrative and enforcement measures, and cooperate with international control organs as well as with each other.
The League of Nations Covenant provided that League members should "entrust the League with the general supervision over agreements with regard … to the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs." The first League Assembly created an Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs to assist and advise the League's Council in its supervisory tasks in the field. The League established a Permanent Central Board, later renamed the Permanent Central Narcotics Board, to supervise the control system introduced by the second International Opium Convention, which came into force in 1928. The board was composed of independent experts, to whom League members were required to submit annual statistics on the production of opium and coca leaves and on the manufacture, consumption, and stocks of narcotic drugs and quarterly reports on the import and export of narcotic drugs. Specific governmental authorizations were required for every import and export of narcotic drugs.
The Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs, signed at Geneva in 1931, created a new technical organ, also composed of independent experts, the Drug Supervisory Body. The aim of the 1931 convention was to limit world manufacture of drugs to the amount actually needed for medical and scientific purposes.
The Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, signed at Geneva in 1936, called for severe punishment of illicit traffickers in narcotics and extradition for drug offenses.
A protocol signed on 11 December 1946 (and which entered into force on 10 October 1947) transferred to the United Nations the functions previously exercised by the League of Nations under the pre-World War II narcotics treaties.
The functions of the League's Advisory Committee were transferred to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), established in 1946 as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council. Over the years a number of bodies were created to carry out the work of the United Nations in the field of narcotics control, including the International Narcotics Board (INCB), the Division of Narcotic Drugs (part of the United Nations Secretariat), and the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC). In addition, several specialized agencies, notably the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also were called on to contribute to the war on illegal drugs.
By the mid-1980s the General Assembly recognized that, while several important treaties had been elaborated (see under The Treaty System below), the system had not produced the desired result. Illicit traffic in drugs had achieved crisis proportions all over the world, threatening the stability of governments and regional peace and security in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In 1984, the General Assembly requested the CND to elaborate a new treaty to explicitly treat the problem of illegal drug trafficking. In 1985 the General Assembly decided to convene an International conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Vienna in June 1987. That Conference adopted a Declaration and a Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control.
However, the 1987 annual report of INCB revealed that drug-trafficking syndicates now held enough financial power to challenge the elected authorities of some South American countries. In addition, the spread of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and the HIV virus had assumed pandemic proportions, due in large part to the sharing of infected needles by drug abusers. The INCB noted that international drug traffic was financed and organized by criminal organizations with international links and with accomplices in financial circles who helped "launder" money obtained through the drug trade. Member states proclaimed 26 June 1988 as the first International Day Against Drug Abuse, to begin to focus public attention on the worldwide scope of the problem.
In February 1988, a plenipotentiary conference of the United Nations member states was convened in Vienna. It adopted the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (see under The Treaty System below), which was immediately ratified by 43 nations. However, for lack of sufficient ratifications and accessions, the convention did not come into effect until December 1990.
In November 1989, the General Assembly expressed its alarm at the slow pace of accessions holding up the entry into force of the 1988 convention. To consolidate international efforts, the General Assembly held a four-day special session (its seventeenth special session) in February 1990 to adopt a Political Declaration (A/RES/S-17/2) affirming the determination of the international community to band together to fight drug trafficking. In its declaration the General Assembly recognized the links between drug trafficking and the economic and social conditions of the countries producing drugs. It also voiced its concern about the link between drug trafficking and international terrorism, and the threat posed by transnational crime organizations that corrupted elected governments. The member states resolved to "protect mankind from the scourge of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances…." They reaffirmedtheir commitment to support the international effort to eradicate drug trafficking both financially and by bringing national laws into line with the various United Nations treaties on narcotics control. The document also noted that international cooperation in restraining drug trafficking should be conducted in accordance with the principles of national sovereignty embodied in the United Nations charter. The General Assembly concluded the document by adopting a Global Programme of Action and declaring the period 1991–2000 the United Nations Decade Against Drug Abuse.
The 100-paragraph Global Programme of Action contained proposals for worldwide cooperation to stem the rising tide of drug abuse. Some of its provisions were based on the Multidisciplinary Outline mentioned above, and included:
On 15 February 1990, just before the General Assembly's special session, the United States, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru met in Cartagena, Colombia, and signed the Cartagena Declaration, agreeing to cooperate to stem the flow of drugs to the United States. The four countries, representing the world's largest consumer (the United States) and the largest suppliers of illicit cocaine, agreed to wage a war on drugs on three fronts: demand reduction, consumption reduction, and supply reduction. The United States agreed to financially support alternative development to replace the coca-growing economy in Peru and Bolivia and to fund emergency social programs. The multilateral cooperation begun at the Cartagena summit was extended in 1992 at a summit held in San Antonio, Texas, to include Mexico in the international struggle against drug trafficking organizations.
The government of the United Kingdom, in association with the United Nations, organized a three-day World Ministerial Summit to Reduce the Demand for Drugs and to Combat the Cocaine Threat. The summit was held in London from 9–11 April 1990, and was attended by 650 delegates, most at the ministerial level, from 124 countries. The summit adopted the London Declaration committing the nations to giving higher priority to prevention and reduction of illicit drug demand at national and international levels. The London summit produced a consensus that, whereas producing countries had previously felt that drug abuse did not threaten their own populations, developing countries now realized that drug abuse had become a worldwide phenomenon cutting across national boundaries, class, race and income levels.
Some of the London Declaration's provisions include:
In October 1993, China, Laos, and Myanmar (referred to as the "Golden Triangle") signed a Memorandum of Understanding, expanding existing cooperation on drug control, in cooperation with the UNDCP. The countries aimed to eliminate opium poppy cultivation through economic and social development programs; curb traffic in narcotic drugs and essential chemicals used in manufacturing drugs; and implement programs to reduce the demand for illicit drugs.
Despite the growing alarm of nations, the phenomenon of illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse continued to rise. The 1994 report of the INCB stated that the worldwide drug menace had broken past geographic limits and outgrown its traditional classification as a criminal or social issue and penetrated the spheres of international politics and world economics. Drug organizations had become illegal transnational corporations. In 1994 the CND concluded that UNDCP should, once again, review existing international drug control instruments and activities in order to identify ways to strengthen the system and make appropriate changes. In June 1994, the International Conference on Preventing and Controlling Money Laundering and the Use of the Proceeds of Crime was held in Italy (see Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, above).
In December 1990, the General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General merge the various units of the organization that were concerned with drug control into a single, integrated program. In 1991, the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) integrated the functions of the Division of Narcotic Drugs, UNFDAC, and the secretariat for the INCB. Headquartered in Vienna, UNDCP is charged with the responsibility of coordinating and leading United Nations drug control activities. UNDCP is headed by an executive director. The program publishes a quarterly Bulletin on Narcotics as well as information letters, scientific notes, and publications on drug abuse control activities. UNDCP's budget comes from both the UN regular budget and from the voluntary Fund of UNDCP.
UNDCP's Global Programme Against Money Laundering assists governments to confront criminals who launder dirty drug money through the international financial system. The program provides training in financial investigation to business, law enforcement and judicial professionals.
UNDCP's Global Assessment Programme (GAP) supplies current statistics on illicit drug consumption worldwide. And UNDCP's Legal Assistance Programme works with states to implement drug control treaties by helping to draft legislation and train judicial officials. More than 1,400 key personnel have received legal training and over 130 countries worldwide have received legal assistance as of 2002.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the main policy-making body within the United Nations system for all issues pertaining to international drug abuse control. It analyzes the world drug abuse situation and develops proposals to strengthen international efforts. It is one of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council. In addition, it prepares such draft international conventions as may be necessary; assists the council in exercising such powers of supervision over the application of international conventions and agreements dealing with narcotic drugs as may be assumed by or conferred on the council; and considers what changes may be required in the existing machinery for the international control of narcotic drugs and submits proposals thereon to the council. In addition, the commission has special functions under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (see under The Treaty System, below), such as placing drugs under international control and making recommendations for the implementation of the aims and provisions of the convention, including programs of scientific research and the exchange of scientific or technical information. The commission also reviews implementation of the Global Programme of Action, provides policy guidance to UNDCP, and monitors its activities. The commission meets annually in regular or in special sessions.
The International Narcotics Control Board is responsible for promoting compliance with the provisions of drug control treaties. It was created by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a successor to the Permanent Central Board and the Drug Supervisory Body. The members of the board are not government representatives but experts acting in their private, individual capacities. The board has important functions to perform under the treaties. It watches over statistics of drug production, manufacture, trade, and consumption and also over the estimates needed for the coming year that states are required to furnish to it; if a state does not send estimates, the board makes them itself. The board may request any state to explain a condition that in its view indicates an improper accumulation of narcotic drugs. It may even recommend, in case of difficulties created by a country for the international control, that other states stop the shipment of drugs to that country. A most effective means of ensuring compliance is publicity: the reports of the board (and of other international bodies) ensure that the public is made aware of any situation that may contribute to the spread of drug abuse.
The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) was formerly known as the United Nations Social Defence Research Institute. UNICRI carried out a four-year research study funded by UNDCP on the interaction between criminal behavior and drug abuse and on control measures adopted in individual countries. It conducts research, surveys, and workshops on the criminal aspects of drug abuse for UNDCP. UNICRI is more fully described above, under the Office on Drugs and Crime.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) carries out activities on drug-related problems in the workplace and on the vocational rehabilitation of recovering drug addicts. WHO and UNDCP prepared a multi-media resource kit to assist enterprises in developing solutions to those problems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) carries out activities related to drug dependence and other drug control activities assigned to it by international drug control treaties. WHO plays an integral role in determining which substances should be placed under international control, in accordance with the provisions of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. WHO's Global Programme on Drug Dependence cooperates with member states in the prevention, treatment, and management of drug addiction. WHO also develops guidelines and manuals for teachers and health professionals.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) focuses on the prevention of drug abuse through public education and awareness. UNESCO works with media organizations in producing radio and television programs. With the support of UNDCP, UNESCO is carrying out research projects on drug use and prevention in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is concerned with the transportation of illicit drugs by ships. IMO has compiled guidelines on the prevention of drug smuggling on ships engaged in international traffic. The guidelines set out security precautions, methods of concealments, actions to be taken when drugs are discovered, identification of addicts, and cooperation with customs.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) seeks to counteract the shipment of illicit drugs by air. It develops technical specifications and guidance material for civil flights, and suggests measures to ensure that commercial carriers are not used to transport illicit drugs.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has carried out studies to establish international measures covering the shipment of illicit drugs through the mails.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) manages several multidisciplinary programs financed by UNDCP. FAO covers the agricultural aspects of the drug crisis. Its programs are aimed at raising the income level of farmers, and thereby reducing the incentive to cultivate narcotic crops. It has participated in UNDCP-financed projects in Bolivia, Myanmar, and Pakistan. FAO and UNDCP are studying the potential of remote sensing techniques and satellite imagery (already in use by FAO to predict droughts and other international crop statistics) in the detection of illicit crops.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) incorporates drug abuse control programs into its development projects in Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. UNDP's resident coordinators and resident representatives work closely with the UNDCP in countries where serious drug problems exist.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) focuses on the world's 100 million street children, who are often drug abusers and/or drug sellers. UNICEF has programs in Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen families and provide services to children in need. UNAIDS works with countries to help prevent the spread of HIV and help those already afflicted with the virus. The virus can infect drug abusers who share syringe needles.
One of the tasks of the UN in drug control is to adapt international treaty machinery to changing conditions. Six agreements have been drawn up under United Nations auspices.
The Paris Protocol of 1948. The prewar international conventions on narcotics applied to all addictive products of three plants—the opium poppy, the coca bush, and the cannabis plant—and to products belonging to certain chemical groups known to have addictive properties. By the end of World War II, however, a number of synthetic narcotics not belonging to the defined chemical groups had been developed. A protocol signed in Paris on 19 November 1948 authorized WHO to place under international control any new drug not covered by the previous conventions that was or could be addictive. The Paris protocol came into force on 1 December 1949.
The Opium Protocol of 1953. Despite earlier international treaties on opium, its production continued and found its way into illicit channels. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs first proposed an international opium monopoly, with production quotas and a system of international inspection. It was impossible, however, to obtain agreement on such important questions as the price of opium and inspection rights.
A compromise was worked out by the United Nations Opium Conference, held in New York in May–June 1953, and was embodied in a Protocol for Limiting and Regulating the Cultivation of the Poppy Plant, the Production of, International Trade in, and Use of Opium. Under this protocol, only seven states—Bulgaria, Greece, India, Iran, Turkey, the USSR, and Yugoslavia—were authorized to produce opium for export. Producing states were required to set up a government agency to license opium poppy cultivators and designate the areas to be cultivated. Cultivators were to deliver all opium immediately after harvesting to this agency, the only body with the legal right to trade in opium. The Permanent Central Narcotics Board, under the protocol, was empowered to employ certain supervisory and enforcement measures and, with the consent of the government concerned, to carry out local inquiries. The protocol came into force in December 1964.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. On 30 March 1961, a conference at United Nations headquarters adopted and opened for signature the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. This convention, which came into force on 13 December 1964, was a milestone in international narcotics control.
The first objective of the convention—codification of existing multilateral treaty law in this field—was almost achieved. The second goal—simplification of the international control machinery—was achieved: the Permanent Central Board and the Drug Supervisory Body were combined as the International Narcotics Control Board, as described earlier. The third goal was extension of control to cover cultivation of plants grown for narcotics. The treaty continued controls on opium, including national opium monopolies and the obligation of governments to limit production to medical and scientific purposes. Provisions dealing with medical treatment and rehabilitation of addicts were quite new as treaty obligations. Opium smoking, opium eating, coca-leaf chewing, hashish (cannabis) smoking, and the use of cannabis for nonmedical purposes were prohibited. The convention required states that are parties to it to take special control measures for particularly dangerous drugs, such as heroin and ketobemidone. Earlier treaty provisions, requiring (1) that exports and imports of narcotic drugs be made only on government authorization from both sides, (2) that governments report on the working of the treaty, and (3) that they exchange, through the Secretary-General, laws and regulations passed to implement the treaty, were retained. Provisions for controlling the manufacture of narcotic drugs and the trade and distribution of narcotic substances also were continued, together with measures for controlling new synthetic drugs.
The Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. During the 1960s there was increasing concern over the harmful effects of such drugs as barbiturates, amphetamines, LSD, and tranquilizers. WHO and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs recommended that governments take legislative and administrative control measures.
On the basis of a draft drawn up by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in close collaboration with WHO, a plenipotentiary conference for the adoption of a protocol on psychotropic substances met in Vienna in 1971, with 71 states represented. On 21 February 1971, it adopted and opened for signature the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. The convention has been in force since 1976.
The 1971 convention was a major step in the extension of international drug control. It contains a number of prohibitive measures for hallucinogens that present a high risk of abuse and have no therapeutic application. Special provisions regarding substances such as LSD prescribe, among other things, prohibition of their use except for research authorized and supervised by governments.
The requirement of licenses for manufacture, trade, and distribution, the supervision of these activities, and the repression of acts contrary to laws and regulations are applied to all of the drugs enumerated in the 1971 convention. Governments may limit or prohibit the import (and export) of any psychotropic drug. With this regulatory system, governments can protect themselves against unwanted drugs. Psychotropic drugs used in therapy but with great abuse potential, such as sleeping pills, are controlled by requiring medical prescriptions and by supervision of export-import activity. International trade in the most dangerous stimulants—the amphetamines—is subject to a more stringent authorization system. Strict record-keeping of drug movements and statistical reports to the International Narcotics Control Board are also required.
A humane provision in the treaty requires that "all practicable measures for the prevention of abuse, the early identification, treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation, and social reintegration of persons involved" be taken and that "either as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to conviction or punishment, such abusers shall undergo measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation, and social reintegration."
The Protocol Amending the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1972. A plenipotentiary conference adopted, on 25 March 1972, amendments to strengthen the international narcotics control system and to include new concepts and means.
The International Narcotics Control Board was increased from 11 to 13 members, to serve for five years instead of three. Technical measures included in the protocol concern limitation of the production of opium, seizure and destruction of illicitly cultivated opium poppies, and the option of the board to recommend technical or financial assistance to governments. The protocol, like the 1971 Convention, provides for after-care and rehabilitation of drug abusers. Also, drug offenders are made extraditable in any extradition treaty. The protocol came into force on 8 August 1975.
Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988. In recognition of the increasing difficulty faced by law enforcement and other government agencies in coping with the expansion of illicit drug trafficking, the General Assembly, in 1985, requested the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to prepare a new convention covering areas not adequately regulated by existing treaties.
In 1988, the United Nations convened a conference in Vienna that was attended by representatives of 106 nations. The conference adopted the new convention, which was immediately ratified by 43 nations. The convention entered into force on 11 November 1990.
World leaders met in New York 8–10 June 1998 in a special session of the UN General Assembly to adopt a worldwide plan to substantially reduce drug demand and supply by the year 2008. The session addressed guiding principles on reducing demand for illicit drugs, eradication of illicit crops and alternative development, amphetamine-type stimulants (stated as a priority requiring urgent action), money laundering, controlling precursor chemicals (intermediate substances used to manufacture drugs), and judicial cooperation to promote drug control. By November 1999, 153 states had ratified the 1988 convention.
The 34-article convention addresses the issues of tracing, freezing, and confiscating proceeds and property derived from drug trafficking. Courts may seize bank, financial, or commercial records, without the imposition of bank secrecy laws. The convention also provides for extradition of major drug traffickers, mutual legal assistance between states on drug-related investigations, and transfer of proceedings for criminal prosecution. The convention also commits states to eliminate or reduce illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. One of the most important provisions of the treaty, Article 12, sets forth two tables of substances used to manufacture illicit drugs and agrees to implement controls on the manufacture and shipment of such substances. In essence, Article 12 imposed the same controls on the chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs as are imposed on the raw materials like opium and cocaine. The substances controlled by the convention included ephedrine, ergometrine, ergotamine, lysergic acide, 1-phenyl-2-proanone, pseudoephedrine, acetic anhydride, acetone, anthranilic acide, ethyl ether, phenylacetic acide, and piperidine.
Opium and Its Derivatives. Opium, the coagulated juice of the poppy plant Papaver somniferum L., was known to the Sumerians living in lower Mesopotamia in 3000 BC . It was used by the Greeks and Arabs for medicinal purposes and was probably introduced into China by the Arabs in the ninth or tenth century. The opium poppy can be grown in most of the habitable parts of the world and is often cultivated for its beautiful flowers or its seeds, which are a valuable food. As an addictive drug, opium was originally eaten or drunk as an infusion. The practice of smoking opium is only a few hundred years old.
The best-known derivatives of opium are morphine, codeine, and diacetylmorphine, more commonly called heroin. While morphine and codeine have valuable medicinal properties, heroin has no medical uses for which less dangerous analgesics cannot be substituted, and upon the recommendation of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, its manufacture has been banned in most countries. A number of drugs are derived from morphine or are compounded with it, including ethylmorphine and benzylmorphine. Some morphine derivatives, such as apomorphine, are not addictive in themselves.
The most important drugs in national and international illicit traffic are still opium and its derivatives, in particular morphine and heroin. As a result of effective international controls, there has been little diversion of opium or opiates from legitimate channels into the illicit trade. There is, however, illicit production of opium in some countries. From these supplies, clandestine factories manufacture morphine that is converted into heroin. Opium contains as an average 10% of morphine, which is made into diacetylmorphine or heroin in equal weight by relatively simple methods. Clandestine factories have been moving closer to the opium-producing areas. Morphine can be extracted from poppy capsules whether or not the opium has been extracted; at least 30% of licit morphine comes from this process. When Turkey, in 1974, resumed cultivation of the opium poppy, which had been stopped two years earlier, it decided not to produce opium but to use the "poppy-straw method" for extraction of morphine. About 90% of the licit morphine is used to make codeine, whereas 90% of illicit morphine is used to make heroin. An effective way of eradicating heroin is to stop illicit poppy cultivation. This is the intent of the international treaties and also of crop substitution undertaken in several countries with the support of the UNDCP.
Coca Leaf and Cocaine. Coca leaves grow on an evergreen shrub, Erythroxylon coca, native to the mountainous western region of South America. The leaves are the raw material for the manufacture of cocaine. The leaves themselves have been chewed by some of the Andean peoples for centuries to help combat hunger and overcome the fatigue and exhaustion caused by the high altitude.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs concluded that coca-leaf chewing is a dangerous habit and constitutes a form of addiction. In 1954, the Economic and Social Council recommended that the countries concerned should gradually limit the cultivation and export of coca leaf to medical, scientific, and other legitimate purposes and should progressively abolish the habit of coca-leaf chewing. At the same time, it was recognized that there was little chance of eliminating coca-leaf addiction unless the living conditions of those among whom the habit was widespread could be improved and that the problem must be attacked on this front as well.
Coca leaves are used to make licit cocaine, the production of which has declined to about one ton a year, but they are also used for the illicit market that supplies increasing quantities of this dangerous drug to North America, Western Europe, and other regions.
A new, more addictive, and more deadly form of cocaine called "crack" is an inexpensive, potent form of the base drug in crystalline form. It is usually smoked, giving a quick, intense high, which lasts only a few minutes. "Crack" is harmful to the brain, heart, lungs, and nervous system and produces serious psychological effects.
Cannabis (Marijuana). The plant Cannabis sativa, or the crude drug derived from it, is known under almost 200 different names—marijuana, hashish, Indian hemp, charas, ganji, kif, bhang, and maconha, to name a few. Widely used as an intoxicant by millions of people for at least 4,000 years, it can be grown in most parts of the inhabited world. Depending on the soil and cultivation, the plant grows to a height of one to 20 feet. The narcotic resin is found in the flowering tops.
Cannabis is used as a narcotic in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. Because the plant grows wild and is easy to cultivate illicitly, traffickers have little difficulty in obtaining cannabis. Statistics on users are not available, but their number must run well in the millions.
Synthetic Narcotic Drugs. A number of synthetic substitutes, especially for morphine, are widely used. They were placed under control by the 1948 protocol. They may and do give rise to abuse but in a relatively limited way, and there is little, if any, illicit traffic in them. The most widely known are pethidine and metha-done.
Psychotropic Substances. Psychotropic substances placed under international control by the 1971 convention are listed, like narcotic drugs, in treaty schedules that may be modified from time to time by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. They have widely different characteristics, and, according to complex criteria having to do with the dangers they present to the individual and society, they have been placed in four schedules with decreasing severity of control. In Schedule I are found mainly hallucinogens, such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocine. All are made by synthesis, but the last two are also found in plants, the peyotl cactus and the hallucinatory mushroom, respectively. Schedule II contains mainly drugs of the amphetamine type that stimulate the central nervous system. They have limited therapeutic value but are widely abused, especially by young people who inject them intravenously, possibly causing psychoses. In Schedule III are found mainly the most powerful depressants of the central nervous system—barbiturates used as hypnotics (sleeping pills) by a very large number of consumers everywhere. These drugs, if used without therapeutic necessity, produce a form of addiction that can be extremely dangerous. Barbiturates are often used in association with heroin, with alcohol (with an especially dangerous interaction), and even with stimulants. Schedule IV has some barbiturate depressants and a number of tranquilizers. These constitute a very large body of medicaments supposed to eliminate anxiety and nervousness. Large quantities of such drugs as meprobamate and diazepam are consumed without therapeutic need and may alter mood and behavior.
Methamphetamines, amphetamines and other stimulants are covered by the 1971 convention. In November 1996 UNDCP declared that the global rise in the abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants was likely to be a major drug problem in the 21st century. By 2000, the prediction had already been borne out. These stimulants have the potential to pose more health problems to society than heroin or cocaine because they are simple to produce ad the necessary precursor materials are readily accessible. Phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) is an immediate precursor that can be easily synthesized into methamphetamine. Amphetamine-type stimulants are usually taken orally or injected. Crystalline dmethamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly referred to as "ice" or "crystal meth," is ingested by smoking.