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UN drug agency says Afghanistan is fastest-growing producer of methamphetamine

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan is the world’s fastest-growing producer of methamphetamine, a report Sunday from the U.N. drugs agency said. The country is also a major opium producer and heroin source, even though the Taliban declared a war on drugs after returning to power in August 2021.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which published the report, said meth in Afghanistan is mostly made from legally available substances or extracted from the ephedra plant, which grows in the wild.

The report describes Afghanistan’s meth manufacturing as a growing threat to national and regional health and security as it could disrupt the synthetic drug market and fuel addiction. It said seizures of meth allegedly coming from Afghanistan have been reported from the European Union and East Africa.

The report said annual meth seizures totaled from inside the country increased from less than 100 kilograms (220 lb) in 2019 to nearly 2,700 kilograms (6,000 lb) in 2021, indicating an increase in production. But it couldn’t value the country’s meth supply, the quantity produced, or its domestic use, because it doesn’t have the data.

Angela Mee, head of UNODC’s Research and Trend Analysis branch, told The Associated Press that making meth, particularly in Afghanistan, has several advantages over heroin or cocaine production.

“You don’t have to wait for something to grow,” I said. “You don’t need land. All you need are cooks and know-how. Meth labs are mobile, they are hidden. Afghanistan also has the ephedra plant, which is not found in the largest meth producing countries: Myanmar and Mexico. It is legal in Afghanistan and it grows everywhere. But you need it so much.”

I said it was too early to assess what impact the Taliban’s anti-narcotics crackdown had on the meth supply.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Kani told the AP that the Taliban-run government has banned the cultivation, production, sale and use of all narcotics and psychotropic substances in Afghanistan.

He said authorities had destroyed 644 factories and about 12,000 acres of land where banned narcotics were cultivated, processed or produced. More than 5,000 raids have been conducted in which 6,000 people have been arrested.

“We cannot claim 100% that it is over because people can still do these activities secretly. “It is not possible to bring it to zero in such a short period of time. But we have a four-year strategic plan to eliminate narcotics in general and meth in particular,” Qani said.

A UN report published in November said opium cultivation had increased by 32% from the previous year since the Taliban took over, and after authorities announced a ban on cultivation in April 2022. Prices increased. Farmers’ income from opium sales has tripled to $425 million. $1.4 billion in 2021 and 2022.

The 2022 report also said that the illegal drug market is thriving due to the rapid contraction of Afghanistan’s economy, leaving people open to illegal cultivation and trafficking for survival.

Afghans are dealing with drought, severe economic hardship, and the continuing consequences of decades of war and natural disasters.

The recession, coupled with a halt to international financing that had been propping up the economy of the former Western-backed government, is pushing people deeper into poverty, hunger and addiction.

An Afghan health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said about 20,000 people were in hospitals for drug addiction, mostly crystal meth. Among these patients, 350 are women. He said that children were also being treated, but he neither disclosed the number nor their age.

Riyazat Butt, The Associated Press


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