PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE government’s fight against illegal drugs has so far been effective after the number of drug users in the country dropped by at least 70 percent compared to the figure taken last 2004, according to the records of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Based on the initial result of the survey conducted by the DDB in 2008, the number of drug users in the country is now at two million or approximately four million users lower than the figures in 2004.
DDB Assistant Secretary Rommel Garcia, however, made it clear during the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) — sponsored weekly Kapihan ng Bayan forum at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City that the figures are not yet official because it is still undergoing verification, adding that the number could still go down.
“We would like to emphasize that drug abuse population is the most difficult data to gather because people don’t want to admit that they are drug users, but we managed to collect it,” Garcia said during the forum.
Garcia attributed the drop in the number of drug users to the various anti-illegal drug campaign operations of the government headed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) with the help of National Police, military, local government units and other agencies.
The Philippines ranked No. 1 in Southeast Asia as the country with the most number of drug users based on the 2008 World Drug report released by the United Nations Office on drugs and crimes.
The UN report was based on the data submitted by the DDB in 2004 which stated that six percent of the country’s total population is on drugs or approximately 6.7 million.
Aside from the anti-drug campaign, the high price of methamphetamine hydrochloride has resulted in the drop on the demand for the said substance.
The recent survey also showed that the typical age of drug users at present is 28 years old and majority of the users are males.
Meanwhile to prevent former drug dependents from going back to illegal drug use, Garcia said that they are also improving the drug rehabilitation program of the government by increasing the number of rehabilitation centers and improving the after-care program for drug dependents.
The government is offering free rehabilitation programs to drug dependents and they can be admitted in government-run centers in Tagaytay, Bicutan, Pampanga and Zamboanga. There are also privately owned centers in the country but it costs around P20,000-P50, 000 a month.