SYNTHETIC DRUGS INCREASINGLY POPULAR, CONFERENCE TOLD
MONTREAL -- Marijuana remains the most commonly used drug around the world but the surge in clandestine methamphetamine production is a growing concern, an international conference heard Tuesday.
"Synthetic drugs are really one of the key threats that we have to look at over the next few years," Derek Ogden, the RCMP's director general, drugs and organized crime, told the 24th International Drug Enforcement Conference.
The production of these drugs is easy but its toll on users and environmental harm to communities are severe, he told nearly 300 delegates from 76 countries.
Synthetic drugs are a growing portion of the estimated $ billion US spent annually around the world on illicit drugs. That exceeds the gross domestic product of 88 per cent of countries in the world.
Karen Tandy, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said an estimated 26 million people worldwide use ecstasy and methamphetamines, which she added still ranks well behind the 161 million users of various forms of cannabis.
Addiction to ecstasy and meth leaves users physically battered by the potent chemicals.
Criminals are attempting to avoid law enforcement by rerouting precursor drugs such as ephedrine through various countries, particularly in Africa.
Canada is increasingly becoming a destination of choice. Canadian police dismantled 30 clandestine labs last year, up from 14 a year earlier, said RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas.
"We've seen clearly across the country a resurgence of these types of labs," Bourduas said, noting new police efforts to combat this activity.
Tandy said disrupting the shipment of these and other drugs require a high degree of international co-operation.
Such sensitive matters are being discussed behind closed doors for much of the conference.
"Intelligence, intelligence, intelligence," Tandy said. "It is all about that if we are to really hit these organizations where they are most vulnerable, if we are really to have the kind of impact that we're here to deliver to the world's greatest evil organizations."