Drug consumption in Peru has increased significantly over the last three years, as the country undergoes the same evolution from producer nation into consumer as seen elsewhere in the region.
According to a report (pdf) published by CEDRO, a drug-monitoring non-profit organization, domestic consumption of cocaine has increased more than 60 percent in just three years -- from a rate of 1.5 percent of the population aged 12 to 65 in 2010 to 2.4 percent in 2013. Over the same time period, use of cocaine base increased from 2.1 to 2.9 percent, and marijuana use rose from 5.6 to 7.5 percent.
Peru's major cities have the highest prevalence of drug users, with cocaine use in the capital of Lima at 5.1 percent and marijuana use peaking at 9.7 percent in Cuzco, closely followed by Lima at 8.9 percent.
According to Alfonso Zavaleta, CEDRO's chief researcher, rising cocaine use is directly linked to the rise in local production, reported Peru 21. "We have found that consumption of these substances has increased in areas where these drugs are being produced," he said.
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The rise of drug use in Peru is a troubling trend in what is the world's largest coca producing nation. According to the CEDRO report, Peru only needs about 6,700 hectares to meet the legal domestic demand for coca leaves. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the country has more than 60,000 hectares of coca under cultivation -- as of the end of 2012 -- suggesting that up to 90 percent of coca produced in the country goes toward illicit drug production.
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The government last year introduced a hardline anti-drug strategy, which was followed by a jump in seizures and the implementation of strict eradication efforts, however it has not affected the country's status as the number one source of coca.
Peru has traditionally been a drug-producing nation, with cocaine paste usually shipped to neighboring countries like Bolivia for processing then onwards to regional and international markets. For traffickers, cocaine originating in Peru is often more cost-effective than cocaine from other countries, and both domestic and international demand for cocaine base has risen in recent years.
However, these latest statistics suggest that Peru is following the example of Colombia, another major producing nation that has seen the rise of its own domestic market, offering powerful new challenges to the Peruvian government in its anti-drug efforts, challenges that Colombia has so far been unable to meet.