Opium, heroin, and Afghanistan

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-29-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-29-10. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2956

Question of the Week: What’s the relationship among opium, heroin, and Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in SouthCentral Asia, bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. Although the modern state of Afghanistan was established in 1747, the country has been fought over, conquered, and incorporated within large empires for millennia.

A report entitled, “Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium,” was published by the United Nation’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) in October 2009. It stated,

“Opium poppy cultivation is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan, but the country’s global pre-eminence as an exporter is relatively recent. Opium poppy was traditionally cultivated in some parts of Afghanistan as far back as the eighteenth century.82 The first significant increases in cultivation levels were reported in the 1980s as Turkish, Pakistani and Iranian anti-narcotics policies were being successfully enforced.”

It went on to state,

“Between 1995 and 2000, the Taliban regime tolerated the drug trade and earned some US$ 75-100 million annually from taxing it. In the post-Taliban period, it was a source of revenue for warlords.”

The Taliban regrouped in the south of the country, and their cumulated revenue over the four-year period (2005-2008) ranged from US$ 350-650 million.

The report concluded that, currently

“more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin is manufactured from opium produced in Afghanistan,”


“global illicit consumption [of opium] is estimated at close to 1,100 tons per year, used by some 4 million users,”

and that

“Close to half of all global heroin consumption is estimated to take place in Europe (including the Russian Federation).”

The UNDOC’s World Drug Report 2009 calculated that,

“The 2007 wholesale price for a kilogram of heroin in Afghanistan ranged around $2,405.”

In the United States, the wholesale price for a kilogram is estimated at $71,200.

These facts and others like them can be found in the Interdiction chapter of Drug War Facts.org.

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to mjborden@drugwarfacts.org.