September 2023International News

Desert Meth Labs: Afghanistan is Now the World’s Fastest Growing Producer of Methamphetamines

Ashley Joann Yomtob
Staff Write

In April 2022, the Taliban, the governing body of Afghanistan since 2021, banned the production of illicit drugs, including methamphetamines, as part of its “war on narcotics,” as explained by the Associated Press. According to Reuters, the nation has been known as the world’s largest producer of opium for years, including heroin. However, a new illegal substance in Afghanistan is now on the rise: methamphetamines. A recent report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) showed a “nearly twelvefold increase in methamphetamine seizures between 2019 and 2021 from 2.5 tons to 29.7 tons.” 

Angela Me, the chief of UNODC’s Research and Trend Analysis Branch, gave the Associated Press insight into why Afghanistan has such an advantage in producing methamphetamines, noting, “You don’t need to wait for something to grow. You don’t need land. You just need the cooks and the know-how. Meth labs are mobile, they’re hidden.” Me also explained that Afghanistan’s legal and plentiful access to the ephedra plant gives an even greater advantage over the world’s other large producers, Myanmar and Mexico, that who cannot cultivate it. 

ABC News reports Abdul Mateen Qani, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, explained in great detail the efforts that the Taliban is taking to halt this illegal production in a statement made to the Associated Press. This includes the destruction of 644 factories and around 12,000 acres of land for possible narcotic cultivation. Additionally, there have been over 5,000 raids and a resulting 6,000 arrests. These measures are yet to yield any effective results. Qani also mentioned a four-year strategic plan that would “finish” meth and narcotics in general. 

ABC News, however, further elaborates that in a United Nations  report from last November, opium production alone increased by 32 percent since the Taliban takeover, and the resulting income of opium sales more than tripled from $425 million in 2021 to $1.4 billion in 2022. The Taliban appears to have very little control over this rapidly spreading industry. Furthermore, it has been revealed that the growth of methamphetamine production in Afghanistan will cause more than just domestic disruption. NBC News reports that the UNODC’s report warns that it could cause chaos within synthetic drug manufacturing and allow for a rise in substance abuse and addiction. 

Additionally, it has been documented that Afghan methamphetamines have been seized as far away as Europe and East Africa. Chemical and Engineering News elaborates on this issue by explaining that a lack of efficient data makes determining the “true size and nature of Afghanistan’s meth problem,” difficult. C&En News also notes that a report conducted by the European Union in November 2020 revealed that Afghanistan was beginning to appear in international markets through both new routes and already well-established heroin trafficking routes. Additionally, C&En News reported that, according to the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan, seizures have been doubling every year since their first seizure in May 2009. 

These two notions alone reveal that the rise of methamphetamine production in Afghanistan has been a trend for over a decade. It is also quite evident that the Taliban and other international organizations are likely to have to deploy a new course of action if there is any chance of managing this growing issue. The political, social, and religious conflicts within Afghanistan and neighboring regions already creates great tension in the area, adding a boom to an already massive illicit drug industry.

Image courtesy of Flickr

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