Home > Drug situation in Afghanistan 2021: latest findings and emerging threats.

Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2021) Drug situation in Afghanistan 2021: latest findings and emerging threats. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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Key take-aways:

The 2021 opium harvest, completed in July, marked the fifth year in a row with production at historic highs of more than 6,000 tons, potentially yielding up to 320 tons of pure heroin to be trafficked to markets around the world.

Income from opiates in Afghanistan amounted to some $1.8-$2.7 billion in 2021. However, much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan. Taxes on opiates cultivation, production and trafficking represent a lucrative potential source of financing for non-state actors in the country.

Shifting trends in opium cultivation and production in Afghanistan have far-reaching impact on global illicit drug markets and organized criminal activity. Afghanistan accounted for some 85 per cent of global opium production in 2020, supplying some 80% of all opiate users in the world.

Continued uncertainty since August 2021 has driven up opium prices in August and September and is increasing incentives for cultivation, just as the crisis exacerbates poverty and food insecurity, potentially leaving more people vulnerable to drug use disorders. The 2022 opium harvest will be based on decisions that farmers will make in November 2021, when they are starting to sow opium poppy.

The illicit drug economy has become increasingly complex, with methamphetamine manufacture in Afghanistan sharply increasing in recent years. High regional and global demand for methamphetamine, coupled with a saturated market for opiates, could push further expansion of manufacture of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs.

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