Photo by Noel Celis/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — There are 1.8 million current drug users in the Philippines or 1.8% of the total population of 100.98 million, results of the Dangerous Drugs Board’s latest survey on the drug use situation in the Philippines show.
According to the 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines presented on Monday, September 19, the current drug use prevalence among Filipinos aged 10 to 69 years old is at 2.3%, or an estimated 1.8 million users.
Filipinos aged 10 to 69 years old comprise around 75% of the total Philippine population as of 2015.
Current drug users refer to individuals who are currently using or have used illegal drugs more than once from January 1, 2015, until February 5, 2016.
Commissioned by DDB, the survey on national drug abuse situation was conducted by Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies Incorporated (REECS) from December 5, 2015, to February 5, 2016, among 5,000 respondents across the Philippines. It had a ±0.9 margin error.
Meanwhile, data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) states that 11,132 out of 42,036 barangays in the country are drug-affected as of December 2015.
‘Lifetime’ drug users
The 2015 survey results show that the lifetime drug use prevalence is around 6.1% of the same sample population.
This means that 4.8 million Filipinos have used illegal drugs at least once in their lives – less than the estimated 7.1 million in 2008.
According to DDB Chairperson Benjamin Reyes, the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign should also focus on prevention to “curb the problem.”
“As much as possible, we are trying to prevent the 4.8 million to not try using illegal drugs again,” he said. “Ang key message natin ay huwag na gumamit at huwag na mag-try kasi mataas ang retention rate.” (Our key message is to not use and do not try illegal drugs because retention rate is high.)
Retention rate refers to the percentage of drug users that will continually use a specific illegal drug.
The 2015 drug situation survey results show that drug retention rate is currently at 28% for shabu and 24.7% for marijuana.
No more drug use after Duterte’s term?
As President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs continues, DDB and other government agencies will use the findings of the latest survey on the drug situation to curb the problem.
“The findings that [that were presented] have implications on policy and implementation of anti-illegal drugs campaign,” Reyes explained. “We need to recalibrate our programs based on the findings.”
For example, while most current drug users thought about quitting illegal drugs, it is not common for them to initiate seeking medical help. (READ: How to seek drug treatment and rehabilitation in the Philippines)
Reyes said that different government agencies, such as the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), will soon implement community-based treatment and rehabilitation for drug users to complement the law enforcement of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“We have a balanced approach [against illegal drugs],” he said. “Unfortunately, what is highlighted is law enforcement, but we need to show people that we have a treatment and rehabilitation approach.”
The implementation of anti-illegal drugs programs should also be handled by barangay (village) leaders.
"Dapat sa barangay level, active sila sa pag-implement ng anti-illegal drug campaign kasi sila ang may kilala sa anong extent ang problema sa kanilang lugar,” he emphasized. “Kung maayos na maiimplement iyon, ang laki ng mababawas sa drug problem sa Pilipinas.”
(Those in the barangay level should actively implement our anti-illegal drug campaign because they themselves know the extent of the problem in their area. If they properly implement the programs, the drug problem in the Philippines will decrease.)
As of Monday, September 19, data from the PNP shows that 17,759 suspected drug personalities have been arrested under Oplan Double Barrel.
Meanwhile, 715,393 people have surrendered under Project TokHang, 53,091 of them drug pushers and 662,302 admitting to using illegal drugs. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs’)
The total number of persons killed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, as of September 19, is at over 3,000, with 1,152 drug personalities killed in police operations, and 2,035 in extrajudicial or vigilante killings.
Reyes has no doubt that the government is doing its best to address the drug problem in a holistic way. “We are hoping at the end of the Duterte administration, illegal drugs will become a non-issue,” he said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.