Taliban’s anti-heroin measures trigger surge in Afghan meth production, says UN study

UN report highlights surge in meth trafficking in Afghanistan as Taliban curbs heroin trade

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A United Nations report has revealed a significant rise in methamphetamine trafficking in and around Afghanistan, even as the Taliban, which regained power in August 2021, has taken measures to curb heroin trafficking within the country. The report calls for immediate attention to this emerging issue.

Ghada Waly, the executive director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), expressed concern over the growing methamphetamine trade, emphasizing its importance in the illicit drug market.

While the Taliban announced a ban on narcotics production in Afghanistan in April following their rise to power, the UNODC’s findings indicate that the crackdown on poppy farming has led to a decline in heroin trafficking but a surge in meth trafficking.

Seizures of methamphetamine in and around Afghanistan have seen a staggering 12-fold increase over the five years leading up to 2021. Nearby countries such as Iran and Pakistan have also reported higher meth seizures between 2019 and 2022. Even countries as distant as France and Australia have seized methamphetamine believed to originate in Afghanistan.

The UNODC attributes this rise in meth production to the use of precursor ingredients commonly found in over-the-counter cold and flu medications. While Afghanistan does possess the ephedra plant, used in methamphetamine production, the report indicates that the quantities required and the risks associated with unreliable crop yields mean Afghanistan’s meth production isn’t solely reliant on this plant.

Instead, the production process in Afghanistan primarily relies on common cold medications and industrial-grade chemicals, which are not only more efficient but also cost-effective. As a result, these substances pose a more significant threat to the region in terms of meth production and trafficking.

Shaheer Gul Khan is a final-year student of English Literature at Government College University (GCU) Lahore. Strives to create a challenging and engaging environment having editor skills in freelancing, a goal-oriented. He can be reached at Twitter @HafizShaheerGu1.