Afghanistan is now the fastest-growing maker of methamphetamine in the world, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Methamphetamine trafficking is surging drastically in an around the Middle Eastern nation, with seizures of the drug increasing nearly twelve-fold in five years from 2.5 tons in 2017 to 29.7 tons in 2021.
When the Taliban returned to power in 2021, they introduced a drug ban. Under this, heroin production slowed, but methamphetamine trafficking only intensified.
Afghanistan is sourcing mostly legally available substances for the drug, or extracts from the ephedra plant, which grows in the wild. Though ephedra is the cheapest short-term option, the large amounts needed, unreliable harvests and the intensive labor involved make it unlikely that the plant can be relied on alone as a source.
The UNODC introduced its report to bring light to the country's meth manufacturing, which it called a threat to both health and security, because it could fuel addiction and disrupt the synthetic drug market.
"The surge in methamphetamine trafficking in Afghanistan and the region suggests a significant shift in the illicit drug market and demands our immediate attention," said UNODC executive director Ghada Waly in a press release. "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."
Seizures of meth suspected to be from Afghanistan have been reported in places as far as the European Union, and as close as within the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa.
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