Afghanistan becomes world's fastest-growing meth producer despite Taliban ban

Sweta Gupta
Sweta GuptaSep 11, 2023 | 13:47

Afghanistan becomes world's fastest-growing meth producer despite Taliban ban

Afghanistan is now the world's leading producer of methamphetamine. (Photo Credits: AP)

Afghanistan resembles a chemistry class gone awry.

According to a recent report by the United Nations drug agency, Afghanistan has taken an unexpected leap to claim the title of the world's fastest-growing methamphetamine producer.

But that's not all - it's not just a one-drug wonderland; it's also a major hub for opium and heroin, despite the Taliban's promise to wage war on narcotics.



  • Afghanistan has now become the world's leading producer of methamphetamine, as per a United Nations report.
  • Despite the Taliban's promise to halt drug production upon returning to power in August 2021, Afghanistan continues to produce substantial amounts of opium and heroin.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that Afghanistan's meth often originates from legal sources or the wild ephedra plant.
  • This report warns that Afghanistan's burgeoning meth production poses a severe threat to the health and security of both the nation and the surrounding region.
Epehdra Plant in Western Afghanistan. (Photo Credits: UNODC)

It could disrupt the synthetic drug market and lead to increased addiction. There have even been reports of meth seizures suspected to have originated in Afghanistan in distant places like the European Union and East Africa.

What do the numbers say?

Even though the Taliban declared a war on narcotics, it appears that Afghanistan is still competing for the title of the world's fastest-growing meth producer.

  • The report states that the amount of meth seized within Afghanistan increased significantly from under 220 pounds (100 kilograms) in 2019 to almost 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) in 2021, indicating a surge in production.

  • Angela Me, the head of the UNODC's Research and Trend Analysis Branch, told AP that producing meth, especially in Afghanistan, has certain advantages over the production of heroin or cocaine.
You don’t need land. You just need the cooks and the know-how. Meth labs are mobile, they’re hidden. Afghanistan also has the ephedra plant, which is not found in the biggest meth-producing countries: Myanmar and Mexico. It’s legal in Afghanistan and it grows everywhere. But you need a lot of it.
- Angela Me
  • A spokesperson from Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, Abdul Mateen Qani, informed AP that the Taliban-led government has banned the cultivation, production, sale, and use of all drugs in the country.
  • They've taken action by destroying 644 drug factories and eradicating around 12,000 acres of land where prohibited drugs were being cultivated or processed.
  • More than 5,000 raids have resulted in the arrest of 6,000 individuals.

  • A UN report from November revealed a 32% increase in opium cultivation since the Taliban's takeover, with opium prices rising after a ban on cultivation was announced in April 2022.

  • Farmers' income from opium sales tripled from $425 million (352 crores INR) in 2021 to $1.4 billion (1400 crore INR) in 2022.


The report also noted that Afghanistan's illicit drug market expanded due to economic challenges and the contraction of the country's economy.

The combination of drought, economic hardship, war, and natural disasters has pushed many into poverty, hunger, and addiction.

Afghans gathered under bridge to consume drugs. (Photo Credits: AP)

An anonymous Afghan health official mentioned that approximately 20,000 people, mostly addicted to crystal meth, are in hospitals for drug-related issues.

This includes 350 women, and children are also receiving treatment, though the exact number and their ages were not specified.

So, as Afghanistan navigates this rocky road, it's evident that they face a significant chemical conundrum.

Last updated: September 11, 2023 | 13:47
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