According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan is now the fastest growing producer of methamphetamine in the world.
Methamphetamine trafficking is increasing rapidly throughout the Middle Eastern country, with drug seizures increasing nearly twelvefold in five years, from 2.5 tonnes in 2017 to 29.7 tonnes in 2021.
When the Taliban returned to power in 2021, they banned the drug. Under this, heroin production slowed, but methamphetamine trafficking only intensified.
Afghanistan sources most of the legally available substances for the drug, or extracts of the ephedra plant, which grows in the wild. Although ephedra is the cheapest short-term option, the large quantities required, unreliable harvest, and intensive labor involved make it unlikely that the plant alone can be relied upon as a source.
UNODC launched its report to shed light on the country’s meth manufacturing, which it said poses a threat to both health and security, as it can promote addiction and disrupt the synthetic drug market.
“The increase in methamphetamine trafficking in Afghanistan and the region signals a significant shift in the illicit drug market and demands our immediate attention,” Ghada Waili, UNODC Executive Director, said in a press release. “regional coordination targeting the diversion and trafficking of chemical precursors is essential to prevent the continued expansion of illicit methamphetamine manufacturing in and around Afghanistan.”
Seizures of suspected meth from Afghanistan have also been reported in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and East Africa, in addition to the European Union.