Five times as many people have died from heroin overdoses in NATO nations over the past 8 years than the total number of NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan, according to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This week the group released their report on the issue: ‘Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium.’
It says 100,000 people die from opium abuse each year, out of an estimated 15 million users worldwide. Europe tops the user list, with China, Pakistan, India and other parts of Asia also ranked as major consuming nations. Aids/HIV are cited as a closely related problem.
In quite a vivid statement, UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa describes the situation in the region: ‘The Silk Route, turned into a heroin route, is carving out a path of death and violence through one of the world’s most strategic yet volatile regions.’
Afghanistan now produces 92 per cent of the world’s opium in a market worth around $65 billion, and the production of the substance has surged in the past decade, exceeding worldwide consumption levels.
The report also notes an interesting fact: there is an unaccounted stockpile of 12,000 tons of opium believed to be stored in Afghanistan and possibly also in transit.
But in an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal some time back, Theodore Dalrymple questioned the conventional wisdom on opium consumption (‘Poppycock’). He basically argued that quitting opium is perhaps not as tough as some would like to make it out to be, and came up with some unique perspectives to try and back this up, including one which actually credits Chairman Mao as a drug therapist for the masses:
‘Thousands of American servicemen returning from Vietnam, where they had addicted themselves to heroin, gave up on their return home without any assistance whatsoever.’
‘…In China, millions of Chinese addicts gave up with only minimal help: Mao Tse-Tung’s credible offer to shoot them if they did not. There is thus no question that Mao was the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history.’