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  • Afghan drug barons are branching out into methamphetamines

    Sep 05, 2019

    DRUG PRODUCERS in Afghanistan have a new line. The country responsible for growing around three-quarters of the world’s opium, as well as mountains of hashish, is diversifying into methamphetamine. The amount seized by the Afghan authorities is increasing exponentially, says the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime. Police hauled in a meagre 4kg in both 2013 and 2014. In the first six months of this year the tally was 650kg.

    This sudden rise has caught authorities by surprise. Afghanistan’s meth boom appears to have begun in its western neighbour. Iran has long had its own meth problem, but a crackdown there has hobbled producers. Some may have relocated to the lawless western deserts of Afghanistan. Afghan migrant labourers have probably learned the meth business in Iran, then brought it home.

    Afghan meth operations have a twist, says David Mansfield of the London School of Economics. Drug producers normally extract meth’s main precursor, pseudoephedrine, from over-the-counter medicine for colds and flu. But governments are trying to track and restrict sales of such medicines, which have become a lot more costly and difficult to obtain. So Afghan producers have switched to another source: the ephedra bush. These red-berried shrubs grow widely in arid parts of Asia and have long been a staple of herbal medicine to treat...


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