Opium, cocaine threaten Africa and Europe: UN

June 27th, 2008 - 1:27 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna/Nairobi, June 26 (DPA) The surge in opium and cocaine cultivation last year has negative effects on the drug control situation in Africa and Europe, the head of the UN drug agency said ahead of the release of the 2008 World Drug Report Thursday. The Afghan poppy harvest reached an all-time high in 2007, and the area under poppy cultivation rose by 17 percent compared with the previous year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) annual report said.

Coca cultivation areas surged last year in Latin America, with Colombia recording a 27 percent increase in the area where the plant is produced.

Cocaine seizures in African countries such as Nigeria have increased in recent years because drug traders are developing new trade routes from Latin American to Europe, the report noted.

A rising number of countries in Western Africa and Southern Africa are reporting rising use of cocaine, the Word Drug Report shows.

“Trafficking causes its own use,” Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said.

While Africa is not a major trade route for heroin, consumption is rising in Eastern and Southern Africa. In South Africa, heroin users accounted for 8.5 percent of overall drug treatment demand in the first half of 2007, up from one percent in 1996.

“Africa at the moment is under attack from the West from coca and from the East from opium,” Costa said.

As increased drug trafficking had “profound destabilizing consequences” on African countries, Costa called for direct development assistance to improve law enforcement capabilities.

In Europe, the higher Afghan opium production has not led to higher consumption so far. However, there was a recent uptick in heroin-related deaths in major European markets such as Britain because higher supply and lower prices increased the purity of drugs to around 50 percent, Costa said.

In addition, European heroin addiction rates might rise because of lower prices, he said.

Reychad Abdool, of the UNODC’s East Africa office, said that the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan was directly related to how much control the Afghan government and international forces had over regions of the restive nation.

“In areas where security was good, there was a decrease in cultivated area or a reduction,” he told journalists at the launch of the report in Nairobi. “The production went up in areas where security was bad.”

Poppy cultivation is also on the rise in Myanmar, with an 29 percent increase in poppy growing in 2007, according to the report.

The use of amphetamine-type stimulants has leveled off since 2000, though such drugs remain a problem in East and South-East Asia, the UNODC reported.

Cannabis production was also falling, the UN drug watchdog said. But Afghanistan had developed into a major supplier of Cannabis resin, with the herb growing on 70,000 hectares in 2006-07, it reported.

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