Report shows growing concern over synthetic drugs in Afghanistan

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A group of women smoking opium in Afghanistan. A UN report shows synthetic drugs are also a growing concern in the country.  UN Photo/UNODC/Zalmai

Synthetic drugs are of growing concern in Afghanistan, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Its first report on the subject reveals that the authorities there are increasingly seizing the drug methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth.

Afghanistan leads the world in opium production, with 4,800 metric tonnes in 2016.

Dianne Penn reports.

Methamphetamine goes by several street names in Afghanistan, including "sheesha."

Seizures of the drug have risen annually in recent years: from only two cases in 2011 to more than 150 cases in 2015.

However, the total amount reported to have been seized during that time was just over 20 kg.

In Afghanistan, methamphetamine is available in tablets, usually mixed with other substances such as caffeine or paracetamol, but there is also a higher quality crystalline form.

Users report paying a wide range of prices for one gram: from as low as US$0.03 to upwards of US$36.

The study finds that the drug is being manufactured in the west of the country, but could also have come across the western border with Iran.

Furthermore, it is suspected that the tablets containing meth cut with other substances were trafficked into the country from other areas in South-Western and Central Asia and Europe.

The report notes that although data and information is scarce, the rise in seizures, among other factors, suggests that synthetic drugs are of growing concern for Afghanistan.

It recommends enhancing data collection, monitoring, and reporting.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’16″

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