The consumption of drugs in Colombia’s largest cities is increasing, with heroin addiction a particular concern, according to the Ministry of Health.
“The consumption of heroin is starting to increase in cities like Cucuta, Medellin, Bogota, and regions such as the Coffee Region and the municipality of Santander de Quilichao in the Cauca department,” according to health minister Beatriz Londoño Soto.
Londoño said the situation was all the more alarming due to rising heroin usage, adding she was concerned by the additional health risks the drug poses due to its consumption method.
“This also represents other risks to public health like HIV/AIDS or other types of diseases like Hepatitis B,” she said.
The average age of a heroin addict in Colombia is 18, while drug addiction is especially on the rise among the student population, according government sources.
Justice Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra commented, “It is indisputable that there are concerns in Colombia over the advancement of drug addiction in schools and universities.”
Esguerra added that Colombia had gone from being a “producer country to a consumer” in recent years.
Speaking during Thursday’s forum “Anti-drug policy in the frame of international security,” health minister Londoño said the fight against drug abuse should include legal as well illegal substances.
“We cannot focus the debate on what is illegal; psychoactive legal substances also harm people, for example alcohol and tobacco,” she said.
The minister suggested that stopping substance abuse among minors could significantly reduce drug addiction in later life.
“The prevention of drug addiction, and all its social, economic and political effects, is precluded by the prevention of the consumption of legal substances from an early age,” she said.
Reports suggest alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and heroin are the substances most commonly used by Colombians.
The report from the health ministry comes at a time when drugs are at the top of the international agenda, with presidents, including Barack Obama and Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, discussing decriminalization at the recent Summit of the Americas.