Afghanistan meth trade surges as Taliban clamps down on heroin

Methamphetamine trafficking in and around Afghanistan has increased in recent years, even as the Taliban have clamped down on heroin trafficking since taking power, a United Nations report says.

Ghada Waly, director general of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said “Research into the trafficking of methamphetamine in Afghanistan and the region suggests a significant change in the illegal drug market and requires our immediate attention.”

The Taliban, which regained power in August 2021, announced a ban the following April on the production of the drug in Afghanistan, the world’s leading producer of opium. Taliban officials say its security forces are destroying Afghan poppy farmers and destroying crops.

While heroin trafficking has slowed, UNODC said in a statement, meth trafficking “has increased since the ban”.

Afghans gather under a bridge to eat medicine in Kabul

Afghans gather under a bridge to eat medicine in Kabul – AP

Meth seizures in and around Afghanistan jumped 12-fold in the five years through 2021. Between 2019 and 2022, neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan also reported increased seizures. Countries as far away as France and Australia have reported receiving possible methamphetamine from Afghanistan, he said.

The UNODC says that much of the meth from Afghanistan is made with pre-cursor ingredients such as those found in some cold and flu medicines.

Afghanistan is home to the ephedra plant, which can be used to make fetamine, but the UNODC said that the large amount needed to produce drugs and the risks of unreliable agriculture means that Afghanistan’s production does not depend on plants alone.

“Common cold drugs and industrial chemicals are more efficient and cost effective for the production of methamphetamine and therefore cause greater harm,” UNODC said.

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