Afghanistan’s Opium Plague
Afghanistan’s drug story begins with a well-worn fact: the country is the world’s largest producer of poppy opium, the raw material from which heroin is made.
Here is a less worn fact: Afghans have now become a leading consumer of their own drugs. An estimated one-million citizens (or eight-percent of the total population) are addicted, according to a United Nations survey.
Some experts believe this enormous drug problem may present a greater long-term threat to the stability of the country than the war.
Here is an index of Afghanistan’s drug statistics based on the annual United Nations Opium Surveys from 2009 to 2012:
— UN officials blame the drug addiction problem on three things: decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics, and limited access to treatment.
— At least one-million Afghans are addicted to drugs, but likely more since the survey doesn’t cover women and children.
— There are 350,000 heroin and opium addicts, a 75 percent increase since 2005.
— Fifty percent of Afghanistan’s opium-using parents give the drug to their children.
— Between 12 to 41 percent of Afghan police recruits test positive for some kind of drugs.
— Nearly 900 tons of opium and 375 tons of heroin are trafficked from Afghanistan every year.
— Afghan opium/heroin has a double-impact, creating health havocs in consuming nations and putting large amounts of money in the hands of both criminals and terrorist movements.
— Ironically, the number of people dying from heroin overdoses in Russia and NATO countries is actually higher than the number of their soldiers killed during war-time engagements in Afghanistan.
— Opium poppy cultivation rose by 18 percent in 2012 despite eradication efforts by Afghan governors.
— Government corruption plays a role in undercutting efforts to take on the opium trade. So does the Taliban, who tax the crop in areas under their control.