How many drug users are there in PH? DDB chief defends varying figures

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2017 06:19 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte touted solving the country's drug problem as one of his primary goals in his six years in office.

Though his anti-narcotics drive has been criticized for alleged human rights violations, it also supposedly resulted to a 26.45 percent drop in the estimated total drug market and 28.57 percent reduction in index crime, according to police data.

However, there has been varying numbers on how large exactly is the illegal drug market in the Philippines in the first place.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), based on a 2015 survey, said there were 1.8 million drug users, but the agency's chairman Benjamin Reyes said they also have information that this number can go as high as 3 or 4 million.

As long as they were gathered using a "valid methodology," these figures may be used, said Reyes in an interview with ANC's Early Edition, underscoring the need to look at different data sources for the administration's campaign.

"It’s how you use the figures [that matters]. So if you’re using one of the figures to target populations, I would rather use the figure which is higher. I would rather over-target than under-target," he said.

"It’s how you use the data. What I’m saying is, all of these data, all of these information are valid and they are helpful in how we triangulate, look at the big picture of the problem," he added.

The survey data they have, said Reyes, may provide the specific details, such as the regional prevalence rates, or the age-specific prevalence rates. They also have hospital-based data and workspace-based data on hand, he said.

The disparity in numbers notwithstanding, Reyes said the truth remains that there is an outcry for the solution of the drug problem as can be seen in the election of Duterte.

"For me, if you have 1.3-million individuals without access to services, that’s a big concern, we need to be alarmed, and I think that would justify all of the things that we are doing right now to address this problem," he said.

"There’s a big demand. It’s being demanded by the public. The President campaigned on the platform of reducing the drug problem, and I think people are demanding that we address this," he added.

PUSHES FOR BARANGAY-BASED INTERVENTION FOR DRUG USERS

Under the new national drug strategy the DDB submitted to Duterte, the agency called for the institutionalization of community-based programs at the barangay level.

This, according to Reyes, is a bid to limit the admission to in-patient to "severe use disorder," which accounts for 1 percent or 13,000 of the 1.3-million surrenderers. 

"We wanted those community-based programs to be placed in all communities nationwide, in all barangays. Every year, with the DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government], we are targeting at least 30 percent of the Anti-Drug Abuse Councils at the barangay level to be activated," he said.