1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Afghanistan tops opium tree

June 26, 2012

The UN's office on drugs and crime (UNODC) has issued its annual report. It aims to present a snapshot of drug use and production around the world.

Poppy fields in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Around 230 million people, roughly five percent of the world's adult population, are thought to have used an illicit drug in 2010. Some 27 million adults are problem drug users.

"Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV," Yury Fedotov, the UNODC's executive director, said presenting the report on Tuesday.

Myanmar, also known as, Burma remains the world's second-largest poppy-crop grower and opium producer, after runaway leader Afghanistan. Production of opium rose by 61 percent in Afghanistan from 3,600 tons in 2010, to 5,800 tons in 2011. Opium production worldwide reached 7,000 tons in 2011.

Since 2007, the total area of land under cultivation for coca bushes has declined by 18 percent, most especially in Colombia. Cocaine use in North America has declined but remained stable in Europe.

The UN report also indicated a future trend for an increased use of synthetic drugs and the non-medical use of prescription drugs "diverted from legal supplies."

In the US, deaths from misusing prescription painkillers, such as morphine, have increased four-fold since 1999. They now outnumber deaths involving heroin and cocaine. The White House has officially declared prescription drug abuse to be an epidemic and America's fastest-growing drug problem.

The UN forecasts that the number of illicit drug users will increase by a quarter by 2050, in line with the growth of the world population.

The majority of the increases will probably take place in developing countries according to the report; most especially involving young people.

The UN report suggests that cannabis will remain the most widely used illegal substance.

jm/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)