U.N. Report Says Drug Preferences Differ! 

U.N. Report Says Drug Preferences Differ! 
Posted by FoM on February 23, 1999 at 07:03:42 PT

UNITED NATIONS,A U.N.-related anti-narcotics agency reported today that people in North and South America consume large amounts of performance-enhancing drugs and stimulants, commonly called "uppers," while Europeans are the world's top users of so-called "downers," or stress-reducing drugs.
These were among the trends discussed in the annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent panel that oversees implementation of United Nations drug control treaties. The board is responsible for monitoring and promoting compliance by signatory countries in controlling 116 narcotic drugs and 111 psychotropic substances, a category that includes hallucinogens, stimulants and depressants.The report notes that there is no clear-cut explanation for the differences in usage between Europe and the Americas. But it speculates that they could be linked to such factors as culture, the effects of advertising and differences in doctor-patient relationships.Noting the tendency of Americans, particularly in the United States, to make heavy use of a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs -- from muscle-building steroids to Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children, to Viagra, the anti-impotence drug -- the report says: "Such high use . . . could be at least partly explained by a prevalent sense of competition. Use of these drugs seems linked to culture and lifestyle.""In the Americas, particularly in the United States, performance-enhancing drugs are given to children to boost school performance or help them conform with the demands of school life," the report says. "They are also taken by adults to achieve the desired body image, boost athletic prowess and social skills or enhance sexual performance."Use by Americans of stimulants, particularly amphetamine-type substances for dieting and methylphenidate substances, such as Ritalin, amounts to an annual total of 330 million defined daily doses, compared with a total of about 65 million daily doses in all other parts of the world, the report says.The report finds no evidence that life in Europe is more stressful than in the Americas. Nevertheless, it says, stress-reducing drugs, called benzodiazepines by scientists, are used by as much as 10 percent of the populations in some European countries, with people older than 65 the heaviest users.It says, "Many Europeans in this age group have retired and no longer suffer professional stress, but may use the drugs to cope with isolation or threatening changes in life routine." And it warns, "But treating these symptoms with benzodiazepines can be dangerous, since these substances have a high abuse and dependency potential."The report also notes the board's opinion that the debate about medicinal use of cannabis, or marijuana, has been characterized "by ignorance, emotion and propaganda on all sides," and it recommends increased scientific research to better determine whether cannabis is beneficial in alleviating the unpleasant effects of various illnesses. In the United States, some states have adopted laws for freer use of cannabis, only to encounter fierce opposition from the White House and other federal narcotics control agencies.  Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
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