Argentina's government has revealed national drug consumption data for the first time since 2010 in a report that uses hard statistics to illustrate the country's growing local drug market.
The report by the Argentine anti-narcotic secretariat's drug observatory was presented by President Mauricio Macri on June 29, according to a press release.
The first government figures on national drug consumption in seven years are based on a survey of more than 20,000 individuals aged between 12 and 65. The responses show that the estimated number of total marijuana consumers grew by nearly 150 percent, from 590,000 in 2010 to 1,500,000 in 2017. Meanwhile, the number of individuals who consumed cocaine during the year prior to the survey nearly doubled, from just over 150,000 in 2010 to nearly 300,000 in 2017.
The data also shows an alarming trend for young people between ages 12 and 17. Since 2010, the percentage of this population estimated to consume marijuana more than doubled to reach 2.7 percent, while the percentage of youth cocaine and "ecstasy" users both tripled to respectively 1.2 and 0.3 percent. Overall drug consumption by youths increased by 146 percent over the last seven years.
The report also suggests that drugs are widely and easily available in Argentina. More than a third of respondants aged 12 and 49 said they could easily buy cocaine in less than 24 hours, while this percentage surpassed 50 percent for Argentines under 35 looking to buy marijuana.
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The new government figures confirm longstanding concerns about Argentina's growing drug consumption problem. Red flags, such as the high proportion of federal criminal cases related to personal drug consumption and increased perceptions of drug availability, had surfaced in recent years. But the new data provides official, statistical confirmation of the long-suspected boom in Argentina's local drug market.
Indeed, there are signs that growing consumption has spurred increased microtrafficking in the country. This, in turn, has impacted drug trafficking routeswhile feeding corruption and violence.
In order to counter this growing issue, Macri had announced sweeping changes, including a now-fulfilled promise to resume publishing official data on drug consumption.
And while Macri's arrival in office spurred concerns over his expressed desire to militarize the fight against drug trafficking, his administration has also adopted a relatively progressive stance toward drug consumption, as shown by measures such as the expansion of rehabilitation programs for minor drug offenders and instituting heavier penalties for drug sellers than for consumers.