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Substance Abuse

Due to their location near major amphetamine-type stimulants markets and along trafficking routes, the Pacific islands are vulnerable to the activities of transnational organized crime groups for a range of illicit goods, including drugs [1].Large quantities of cocaine trafficked through the region have been seized in Australia in recent years [1]. "Cannabis, the most widely used drug in the region, continues to be smuggled into and through the Pacific [1]. The trafficking of methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals, particularly in the form of pharmaceutical preparations, are also trafficked through the Pacific" [1].

According to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, substance abuse whether excessive alcohol consumption or the rising use of hard drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine is a growing concern in Fiji [2]. During the opening of the Drug and Alcohol Unit at St Giles Hospital yesterday, he went on to say that it had been reported that over the past few years, there had been an increase in patients with substance use disorders [2]. Hence, making the need for a rehabilitation unit at the hospital all the more pressing [2].

Furthermore, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health and the St Giles Hospital, children as young as 14 years have been treated for drug addiction [3].

“The number of people involved with drugs is alarming and children must know the dangers of drugs [3]. Marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin are some of the drugs that are now being used in Fiji,” Mr Lesuma said [3]. “There are new forms of drugs that are becoming more common apart from marijuana and these included methamphetamine,” the Permanent Secretary of Defence, Manasa Lesuma said [3].

“It all started from experimenting the drug and when addicted it becomes harder to say no [3]. Side effects include hallucinations, increased blood pressure and heart rate, violent behaviour, and in worst case scenario, death" he added [3].

The 1993 National Nutrition Survey data indicates that consumption of alcoholic home brew use is widespread in Fiji and the Pacific nations, according to the WHO Global Status Report on alcohol [4]. "These beverages usually contain up to three times the alcohol content of commercially produced beer and are mostly drunk by younger men" [4].

Research shows that single drinking sessions with a high rate of alcohol intake can cause abrupt mood swings resulting in violence, accidents and fights, exaggerated emotions, uncharacteristic behaviour, memory loss, impaired judgement, communication problems, sleepiness, coma, stupor and death (at very high intake) and suicide attempts [4]. Excessive drinking has also been implicated in schizophrenic and other psychiatric episodes. "While there is limited current information on the rate and consumption patterns of alcohol, cannabis and kava among young people several studies were conducted to analyse the extent of tobacco and alcohol use among young people in Fiji in the 1990s and early 2000s [4]. One of the studies found that alcohol is widely consumed in one form or another among young people, with about 2 in 5 of the young people surveyed having tasted it" [4].While alcohol and home brew drinking are more common, marijuana cultivation, sales and distribution has become pervasive in some Pacific Island countries and has been seen as a good source of income [4].

Fiji by virtue of its geographical position is faced with the twin problems of illicit drug trafficking and increasing use [5,6]. These are further exercabated by the rapid transitions arising from urbanization as the developments create an atmosphere which exposes entire communities to greater risk associated with drug use [4]. (Personal communication – Fiji Police Department, 2008)

Minimum use of drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine and hallucinogens occur, but it was found that Fiji is considered a transit area for smuggling [5,6,7]. Cannabis is by far the most common and widespread illicit drug used in Fiji. "Data collected by the St Giles Hospital and the Fijian Police Department support the view there has been an increase in use. Admissions data for St Giles Hospital reports on cannabis induced psychosis and other disorders" [4].

The 2005 St Giles hospital data showed a total of 612 patients seen at outpatients department diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder [4]. These included "386 (63%) patients for marijuana, 59 (10%) alcohol, 99 (16%) kava and 99 (16%) tobacco use issues[4]. In 2006, 272 admissions to St Giles Hospital were reported as drug related, consisting of 66% Fijians, 20% Indo-Fijian and 14% belong to other ethnic groups[4]. It is probable that the political troubles in 2006 impacted on the number of admissions, but no data were available to confirm or reject this view"[4].

Furthermore, excessive drinking is reported as a significant contributor to motor vehicle accidents, violence and aggressive behaviour, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, unemployment and criminal activities [4]. It is reported that most youths binge drink to manage their problems, unfortunately it may result in new problems like unsafe sex, crime and violence and even suicide [4].

A study in Fiji revealed that alcohol was a factor in 58% of all homicide between 1982 and 1992 and approximately 80% of the crime in the country is alcohol-related [9,10].In addition, there is sufficient evidence from a various research findings suggesting that the heavy consumption of alcohol contributes other health problems in Fiji, such as diabetes, heart problems, obesity and hypertension [10,11].

Among the social consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in the country,10, 11 violent crime, domestic violence, and road fatalities have been identified as the most serious. National Governments need to provide a legislative framework, policy guidance, health system infrastructure and financial resources to enable health services to prevent and treat drug disorders. Policies must also address the discrimination that can prevent people with drug use disorders from accessing the help they need.


  1. Regional Trends. Pacific Island States and Territories. Pgs 27-30. 2012

  2. Fiji Sun. Maika Bolatiki. PM: Hard Drugs, Alcohol Abuse A Major Concern For Fiji. 2019

  3. Fiji Sun. Ashna Kumar. Children Young As 14 Are Treated For Drug Addiction. 2019

  4. Drug and Alcohol Use in Fiji: A Review. Elenoa Seru Puamau, Graham Roberts ,Lucina Schmich , Robert Pow. Vol 7. No 1. 2011

  5. Devanney M, R.G., Baldwin S, Crofts N, Power, R, Illicit drug use and responses in six Pacific Island countries. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2006. 25: p. 387-900.

  6. Drug Enforcement Administration - Intelligence Division, Drugs Intelligence Brief: the pacific islands region, v. Alexandra, Editor. Drug Enforcement Administration. 2004

  7. United States Office on Drugs & Crime, Pacific Islands: UNODC - Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific. 2003.

  8. Adinkrah, M., Violent encounters: A study of homicide patterns in Fiji society. Fiji Council of Social Services.: Suva, Fiji. 1996

  9. Adinkrah, M., Crime, deviance & delinquency in Fiji. Suva, Fiji: Fiji Council of Social ServicesoolDC1. Goundar R, Kava consumption and its health effects. Journal of Community Health and Clinical Medicine for the Pacific 2006. 13(3): p. 131-5. 1995.

  10. Moulds RFW, M.J., Kava: herbal panacea or liver poison? [For Debate]. Medical Journal of Australia, 2003(178): p. 451-3.

  11. Caswell, S., Alcohol in Oceania. Alcohol Research Unit, Dept of Community Health and General Practice, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand. p. 25. 1986

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