Most people would know that the raw source of opium is the opium poppy, or Papaver Somniferum. It contains morphine which is then processed to create opium and heroin. Not quite the poppies you might see in summer meadows.
Many will also have an idea that a big producer of the opium poppy is Afghanistan. The extent of opium production in the country is almost mind blowing. It is predicted that 89% of Europe’s supply of opium comes from Afghanistan alone, and the country produces 90% of the entire world’s opium. That’s 5,800 tonnes a year. Production within the country is growing too. A 61% increase was estimated in 2011.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country and drug use is strictly prohibited within traditional Sharia law. This places even more confusion on the already unbelievable figures. However, the ongoing war which has raged in the country for over 10 years now puts financial pressure on individuals. Opium production is a way to make money in a country where unemployment is high and poverty is rife.
The result of the mass production of opium within the country not only affects the world on a global scale but also causes problems within Afghan society itself. The psychological and physical effects of the war have driven many people (women, men and children) into drug use, and heroin is easy to come by in the country, with the street price of a gram of the drug being just over one pound.
Men become addicted to the drug while working in neighboring countries in the “Golden crescent”. When they come home, their wives and children may become addicted to the drug through inhalation of passive smoke. Due to the low prices and ready availability of heroin, parents might use it to treat their children for illnesses as it is cheaper than ordinary, legal medication. In the worst case scenarios, this results in children as young as two or three becoming addicted to the drug.
The outlook seems bleak. With war still raging in the country, national and international focus is drawn away from the drugs trade, leaving opium production to thrive and flourish within the vulnerable country.