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Afghanistan’s meth trade is surging worldwide since Taliban ban, UNODC says

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has in a recent report said that the methamphetamine trade in and around Afghanistan is surging with about a 12-fold rise in seizures from 2.5 tons in 2017 to 29.7 tons in 2021.

Within Afghanistan, the report on Sunday said that annual seizure totals rapidly increased from less than 100 kg in 2019 to nearly 2,700 kg in 2021, showing a “rapid expansion” in production and trade in illicit drug markets.

UNODC warned that meth trafficking has “intensified” since the Taliban imposed a ban on opium poppy in April last year.

“The surge in meth trafficking in Afghanistan and the region suggests a significant shift in the illicit drug market and demands our immediate attention,” Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, said.

“Regional coordination targeting the diversion and smuggling of chemical precursors is essential to stopping the continued expansion of illicit methamphetamine manufacture in and around Afghanistan.”

The report indicates that meth seizures, originating from Afghanistan, have been reported across the globe, particularly in the region, which is produced and trafficked in large volume.

“Seizures of methamphetamine of suspected Afghan origin have been reported in places as far away as the European Union, the Near and Middle East, South-east Asia and Eastern Africa.” The UNODC said.

In Afghanistan, meth manufacture primarily focuses on the use of the ephedra plant, the UNODC report stated, adding that the drug is made with pre-cursor ingredients such as those found in some cold and flu medication.

“Common cold medications and industrial-grade chemicals are more efficient and cost-effective for the manufacture of methamphetamine and thus pose a far bigger threat,” the UNODC report said.

Earlier, UNODC reported that Afghanistan supplied 6,200 tons of opium in 2022, which is an estimated 80% of global opiate production, despite the Taliban ban.

The report also alarmed that the supply and trafficking of illicit drugs, including meth, had significantly increased worldwide.

“Afghanistan is also a major producer of methamphetamines in the region, and the drop in opiate cultivation could drive a shift towards synthetic drug manufacture, where different actors will benefit.” The report said.