TNI have released a new report entitled "Withdrawal Symptoms: Changes in the Southeast Asian Drugs Market”. The studies findings are that the significant decline in opium production in Burma and Laos, which has been heralded as a major success for international drug control policy, is having a devastating effect on farmers and is triggering worrying consequences for drug users.TNI have released a new report entitled "Withdrawal Symptoms: Changes in the Southeast Asian Drugs Market". The studies findings are that the significant decline in opium production in Burma and Laos, which has been heralded as a major success for international drug control policy, is having a devastating effect on farmers and is triggering worrying consequences for drug users. The report, draws on hundreds of interviews with farmers, users and traders. It finds that harm reduction and alternative livelihood policies must be in place before any opium reduction if negative health and development impacts are to be avoided. 'The rapid decline has caused major suffering among former poppy growing communities in Burma and Laos, making it difficult to characterise it as a "success story"' explains Martin Jelsma, co-author of the report. For drug users, higher heroin prices and a lack of health services have led not to a reduction in consumption, but to shifts in consumer behaviour. These include shifts from smoking to injecting heroin which, as many users share needles, is one of the main drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. The methamphetamine market is expanding rapidly and users replacing heroin with other pharmaceutical drugs also face new health risks. 'Drug control policies should be development-oriented and concentrate first on offering alternative livelihoods to opium farmers' says Tom Kramer, co-author of the report. 'Similarly, drug users should not be treated as criminals. Instead, what is needed are improved harm reduction services and more humane drug laws.
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