Legal Trade in Narcotics in 1949

Sections

Present state of control
Diacetylmorphine
Synthetic narcotic drugs
Trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs during 1949
A. RAW MATERIALS
(2) Poppy straw
(3) Coca leaves and crude cocaine
(4) Indian Hemp
B. MANUFACTURED DRUGS
(2) Synthetic narcotic drugs
(3) Diacetylmorphine
(5) Codeine
(6) Dionine
(7) Cocaine
Conclusions

Details

Pages: 32 to 37
Creation Date: 1951/01/01

OFFICIAL

Legal Trade in Narcotics in 1949

What is the present-day situation regarding the production and the consumption of narcotics? Or, to be more specific, what observations can be deduced from the various national statistical returns on legal operations in the fields of the production and of the consumption of narcotics?

The most complete answer that can be given to the above questions at this time will be found in the following extracts from the report on statistics of narcotics for 1949, and on its work in 1950, presented by the Permanent Central Opium Board to the Economic and Social Council, at its twelfth session, held at Santiago (Chile).[1]

Present state of control

The lessons which the Permanent Central Board[2] may draw from its activities during the last three years go to confirm the conclusions which it presented in its report for 1947. In general, and in spite of minor imperfections, the machinery set up under the Conventions of 1925 and 1931 is again working fairly satisfactorily, and a good part of the difficulties which have been experienced are a direct result of the world conflict. Broadly speaking, the international control of narcotics can only be founded on the institutions and services which States have undertaken to set up and develop within the national framework. An essential function of the Permanent Central Board is to ensure that the vigilance of governments should not weaken. For this purpose it has at its disposal powers which it would not hesitate to use; but it is convinced that governments, supported by public opinion, will realize the fundamental importance of faithfully observing their international obligations, in the interests of all, and of constantly improving their national institutions. The Board will always try to give such further help as it can to governments whose task has been rendered more burdensome by political changes and economic difficulties.

1

Document E/OB/6.

2

The membership of the Board is as follows: Professor H. Fischer (Switzerland), Sir Harry Greenfield, C.S.I., C.I.E. (United Kingdom), Mr. Herbert L. May (United States of America), Dr. P. Pernambuco Filho (Brazil), Professeur P. Reuter (France), Dr. M. Ristic (Yugoslavia), Professor S. Tavat (Turkey), Dr. Y. N. Yang (China). At its fifty-fifth session, June 1950, the Board re-elected Mr. Herbert L. May, President, and Sir Harry Greenfield, Vice-President, for a period of one year.

Nevertheless, the Board wishes to point out that there are reasons for anxiety especially in connexion with the synthetic narcotic drugs, the production of raw materials, the consumption of diacetylmorphine and the gap in reliable statistics. These matters are all discussed later in the report, but it may be well to say here that as regards synthetic drugs, the application of the Protocol of 1948 will constitute a first essential step, though the Board naturally cannot form a judgment on this instrument without further experience.

As regards raw materials, the Board will watch with lively interest the efforts now being made by governments under the auspices of the United Nations to evolve a special machinery to limit the production of raw opium to medical and scientific needs.

Diacetylmorphine

It will be recollected that during the past two years the Board and the Supervisory Body pointed out that the per capita consumption of diacetylmorphine in certain countries "had increased and was very high, although the 1931 Conference recommended the abolition or restriction of the use of this particularly dangerous drug". The views of the Board and Supervisory Body were communicated to the World Health Organization, the attention of which was called to the opinions expressed on the use of diacetylmorphine and on the problems in medical practice which it raised.

The Board and Supervisory Body have been informed that in the spring of this year, the World Health Organization, referring to the statements of the Board and Supervisory Body and quoting a report of Professor Fischer, a member of both bodies, informed governments that the Expert Committee on Drugs liable to produce Addiction of the World Health Organization is of the opinion that further information is urgently needed as to the reasons governing the present use of diacetylmorphine in some countries, particularly with regard to its possible dispensability. The letter of the World Health Organization adds that the situation is certainly different from that of earlier years owing to the availability of other morphine derivatives and the new synthetic substances with opiate effect which have since been developed; and that physicians might be more easily inclined to renounce the use of a drug which, from the addiction point of view, is certainly the most dangerous morphine derivative.

The Board is glad that these steps have been taken and hopes that they will have favourable results.

Synthetic narcotic drugs

The Protocol of 19 November 1948, by virtue of which synthetic drugs may be brought under the international control established by the Convention of 1931, entered into force on 1 December 1949. Moreover, the World Health Organization, following the sessions of its Expert Committee on this subject held in January 1949 and January 1950, designated certain synthetic drugs as capable of producing addiction.

But, at the date of the present report, synthetic narcotic drugs were not yet subject to international control, for it was only recently that a State Party to the above mentioned Protocol sent the notification provided for in article 1, paragraph 1, of this instrument, and the ensuing procedure had not yet been completed.

Some governments, however, have been supplying statistics on the movement of these substances for three or four years.

Trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs during 1949

The present chapter sets forth the most significant facts regarding the trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs during 1949.

The statistics for 1949 supplied by governments to the Board under the International Conventions of 1925 and 1931 are not yet complete. Furthermore, some of the statistics received are open to question. The extent to which gaps and defects in statistical returns affect the present analysis varies from substance to substance.

A. RAW MATERIALS

(1) Raw opium

All the countries where there is licit production of raw opium, except the USSR, have reported their 1949 production figure to the Board.

It the 1949 figures so far provided by producer countries were accepted unreservedly, it would appear thatin the majority of them a distinct downward trend occurred in that year:

Production of Raw Opium

 
1947
1948
1949
 
Tons
Tons
Tons
India
429.7 342.2 220.0
Turkey
302.7 380.2 10.4
Iran
3.5 21.3 199.6
USSR
73.0 75.0
?
Yugoslavia
23.4 21.5 0.5
Bulgaria
3.4 4.4 0.7
Other countries
0.1 0.1
-
TOTAL
835.8 844.7 431.2
 
 
 
(incomplete)

In view, however, of the gaps and defects mentioned above, the Board believes that in 1949, as always, the real total of raw opium production in a number of countries, and hence total world production, remains unknown.

The same applies to opium used for the manufacture of morphine in 1949, but in this case the gap is due to lack of the annual statistics from the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In other countries, the amounts of opium used for this purpose during the last three years were as follows:

Raw Opium used for the manufacture of Morphine

 

1947 Tons

1948 Tons

1949 Tons

In opium-producing countries (the USSR excluded)
11.6 25.7 23.6
In other countries (Poland and Czechoslovakia excluded)
367.3 334.8 317.7
TOTAL
378.9 360.5 341.3

Those amounts of raw opium produced 42 tons of morphine in 1947, 40.9 tons in 1948 and 39.4 tons in 1949, a yield of 11.1 per cent, 11.3 per cent and 11.5 per cent respectively. In addition, morphine was manufactured from poppy straw (see paragraph (2) below).

The only information supplied to the Board regarding prepared (smoking) opium with respect to the year 1949 is as follows: Thailand declared a production of 17 tons (obtained from 20 tons of raw opium) and a consumption of 16 tons; Indonesia, a consumption of 77 kilograms.

(2) Poppy straw

This raw material of morphine is not covered by the international conventions on narcotic drugs. Most of the countries employing it, however, declare to the Board the amounts used in manufacture and the amounts of morphine thus produced.

The latter were 4.2 tons in 1947, 7.8 tons in 1948 and 9.7 tons in 1949. The figures for the years 1947 and 1948 do not include production in Poland (0.8 and 0.6 ton respectively) since in the statistics of that country it is impossible to distinguish the morphine thus obtained from the morphine extracted from raw opium. The 1949 figure does not include production in either Poland or Czechoslovakia, those countries not yet having reported it.

(3) Coca leaves and crude cocaine

So far as the Board is aware, there are at present four countries which produce coca leaves: Bolivia, Colombia, Indonesia and Peru. Only two of them, Colombia and Indonesia, have declared their 1949 production figure (210 and 4.5 tons respectively); they are not the largest producers, and, according to the declaration made by Colombia, the figure of 210 tons is to be regarded as an approximate one. The situation in this respect is neither better nor worse than it was in the past, and the Board has never been able to determine even approximately the total world production of this substance.

In addition, Peru, also a manufacturer of cocaine (chiefly crude cocaine), has not yet declared either the amount of coca leaves used in 1949 for this manufacture (in 1946-1948: an average of 160 tons per annum) or the amount of crude cocaine obtained (in 1946-1948: an average of one ton per annum). It is impossible, therefore, to calculate the corresponding world totals.

The Board is no better informed as to the amounts of coca leaves consumed (chewed) in two important coca-leaf producing countries, namely Bolivia and Peru; the national authorities concerned may not know the amounts themselves. In Colombia the responsible authorities have declared that the amounts so consumed came to about 180 tons in 1947, 180 tons in 1948 and 170 tons in 1949. Argentina is the only country not producing coca leaves in which the leaves were consumed in that manner: 452 tons in 1947, 181 tons in 1948 and 313 tons in 1949, imported from Bolivia and Peru.

In 1949, four cocaine producing countries, the USA, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and France, together produced 1,390 kilograms of the drug, or 87 per cent of world production that year; as usual, they imported the necessary raw materials: the USA, coca leaves, and the other three countries, crude cocaine. The amounts of raw materials used for manufacturing cocaine in those countries during the last three years are as follows:

   

Crude cocaine

 

Coca leaves in U.S.A. Tons

In United Kingdom (Kg.)

In France (Kg.)

In Switzerland (Kg.)

1947 158 496 302 15
1948 175 309 283 194
1949 158 526 90 345

Further information on the chewing of coca leaves may be found in the Report of the Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf, May 1950, United Nations document E/1666.

Lastly, the amounts of coca leaves used in the USA for the preparation of non-narcotic coca-flavoured beverages fell from 129 tons in 1947 to 6 tons in 1948 and 0 in 1949.

(4) Indian Hemp

This plant is the basis of medicinal preparations, which are little used (some 600 kilograms a year), and of non-medicinal products consumed by addicts in several parts of the world under the names of hashish, marihuana, charas, ganja, etc. The statistics to be supplied to the Board under the Convention of 1925 relate only to imports, exports, confiscations effected on account of illicit imports and exports, and also, in the case of the medicinal preparations, to consumption and stocks. The Board, considering that such information depicts only a negligible part of the movement of these substances, has always refrained from commenting on it.

B. MANUFACTURED DRUGS

(1) Morphine

It is not at present possible to determine whether the steady increase in world production of morphine that has taken place in recent years continued in 1949, since the annual statistics of the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland are not available. Very probably, however, it has done so. Those three countries apart, 49.2 tons of the drug were produced in the world in 1949, as against 48.2 tons in 1948, an increase of 2.1 per cent. The 1948 production of the USSR was 6.8 tons, and that of Czechoslovakia and Poland together 1.4 ton. Assuming that the volume of production in those three countries was the same in 1949 as in 1948, the 1949 world total would be 57.4 tons. That would be a new record, the highest figure previously recorded being 56.5 tons in 1948.

These figures show that world production of morphine-the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland excluded-increased by 0.9 tons in 1949 above the previous year's level. This upward trend did not appear in all producing countries; in some there was a pronounced decrease. The most considerable increases and decreases were as follows:

Production of Morphine

        

Difference

 

1948 (Tons)

1949 (Tons)

Tons

Per cent

(i) Increase:
 
 
 
 
United Kingdom
7.3 10.6
+3.3
+45
Hungary
2.1 4.8
+2.7
+128
(ii) Decrease:
 
 
 
 
United States
17.3 15.2
-2.1
- 12
France
7.4 6.4
-1.0
- 13
Germany
4.3 3.6
-0.7
- 16
Switzerland
3.8 2.9
-0.9
- 24

It is to be noted that morphine production in Hungary more than doubled between 1948 and 1949, and this year reached the highest figure so far recorded by the Board for that country; 95 per cent of that morphine was used to manufacture codeine and dionine (chiefly the former), most of which was exported.

Morphine production figures, and figures for its conversion into other substances throughout the world, always follow a common trend, since the greater part (91 per cent) of morphine produced is so converted. The total world figures-the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland excluded-for morphine used for conversion rose from 43.2 tons in 1948 to 44.9 tons in 1949, an increase of 4 per cent. Assuming that the amounts used for conversion purposes in the three countries excluded were the same in 1949, as in 1948, the world total for 1949 under this head would be 52.2 tons, a new record. In 1949, manufacture of codeine continued to account for the greater part (81 per cent) of the morphine produced, and thus to be the determining factor in morphine production both as regards volume and trend.

The world total of morphine not subsequently converted into other drugs (i.e., of morphine available as such), excluding the figures for the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland, decreased from 5 tons in 1948 to 4.3 tons in 1949. If the amounts under this head in the three countries excluded were the same in 1949 as in 1948, the world total would be 5.2 tons, but would remain lower than it usually was before the war.

(2) Synthetic narcotic drugs

There are at present about a dozen synthetic narcotic drugs the effects of which, both beneficial and harmful, are in general similar to those of morphine. The use of two of them:

  1. Pethidine (hydrochloride of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-piperidine-4-carboxylic acid ethyl ester), also known under the names of Demerol, Dolantin, Dolosal, Isonipecaine, Dolental, etc., and

  2. Methadone (hydrochloride of 4:4-diphenyl-6-dimethyl-aminoheptan-3-one), also known under the names of Amidone, Miadone, Adanone, Dolophine, Physeptone, etc.,

as substitutes for morphine appears to be more or less universal. Although these drugs do not as yet come under the provisions of the 1931 Convention, a number of governments have included them, in some cases for three years and in others for four, in the statistics with which they provide the Board.

The comparison made in the following table between the consumption of morphine and pethidine in the United States, the United Kingdom and France, in 1936, 1948 and 1949, indicates that the latter drug is gaining in importance, and a similar trend is reflected in the other countries which have submitted statistics; but the experience so far gained does not justify the drawing of definite conclusions.

Consumption of Morphine and Pethidine

 

Morphine

Pethidine

Morphine + Pethidine

 

1936

1948 (Kilograms)

1949

1936

1948 (Kilograms)

1949

1936

1948 (Kilograms)

1949

United States
2,226 1,582 1,605 0 2,613 4,412 2,226 4,195 6,017
United Kingdom
709 747 876 0 418 609 709 1,165 1,485
France
329 206 135 0 226 238 329 432 373
TOTAL, for the above countries
3,264 2,535 2,616 0 3,257 5,259 3,264 5,792 7,875

The consumption of methadone in those countries, in 1949, was as follows: USA, 1,397 kilograms; United Kingdom, 46 kilograms; France, 0.

So far as the three countries shown in the above table are concerned, the production of pethidine, as compared with that of morphine produced for use as such, in the years 1947, 1948 and 1949, was as follows:

Production of Morphine and Pethidine

 

Morphine as such

Pethidine

 

1947

1948 (Kilograms)

1949

1947

1948 (Kilograms)

1949

United States
2,379 1,824 1,486 5,144 4,492 4,791
United Kingdom
931 110 1,087 1,155 843 704
France
371 496 569 234 177 297
TOTAL, for the above countries
3,681 2,430 3,142 6,533 5,512 5,792

(3) Diacetylmorphine

With one exception, Czechoslovakia, the twelve countries engaged in licit manufacture of diacetylmorphine during the past three years have declared their production figures for this drug in 1949. The total thus declared for the whole world is 523 kilograms (the absence of Czechoslovak production figures is unlikely to affect the position, since the average annual figure over eight years was only 1 kilogram. This total of 523 kilograms constitutes a decrease of 316 kilograms, or 38 per cent, compared with the total for the year 1948. The decrease occurred in all producer countries but one, the most marked cases being the following:

Production of Diacetylmorphine

     

Decrease

 

1948 Kg.

1949 Kg.

Kg.

Per cent

United Kingdom
300 149 151 50
Italy
278 223 55 20
France
79 25 54 68
Finland
73 25 48 66
Switzerland
45 3 42 93

The exception was Hungary, where production of the drug rose from 4 kilograms in 1948 to 69 kilograms in 1949.

World production of diacetylmorphine has not been very stable in recent years, and it would be premature to interpret the decrease in 1949 as a sign of similar decrease in demand for the drug.

(4.) Dihydrohydroxycodeinone, dihydrocodeinone, d-ihydromorphinone, acetyldihydrocodeinone and methyldihydromorphinone

All the thirteen countries producing one or other of these drugs in the last three years have declared their 1949 production figures to the Board, with the exception of Czechoslovakia (average production in that country during the last three years was, however, less than 1 kilogram). The amount manufactured in the world in 1949 (927 kilograms) is 39 kilograms lower than in 1948. Production was, however, 380 kilograms, or 65 per cent higher in 1948 than in 1947, and had already reached record figures both in 1947 and 1948. It is interesting to note, therefore, that the big increase in demand for those drugs recorded in 1948 is confirmed by the figure for world production in 1949.

Another interesting point is that the total of the amounts produced in 1949 in eleven of the thirteen countries manufacturing these drugs decreased by 258 kilograms in relation to 1948, and that the decrease was offset by an increase of 204 kilograms of the production in Germany and 15 kilograms in the Netherlands. In Germany, this production rose to 416 kilograms in 1949, and that country has thus regained the position of chief producer of the drugs in question occupied by it before the war.

(5) Codeine

In the case of this drug, as in that of morphine, it is not yet possible, in the absence of figures for the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland, to determine whether world production increased in 1949, as it had regularly done during the previous years. It is almost certain, however, that, as in the case of morphine, it did so increase. Production, those three countries excepted, rose from 37.7 tons in 1948 to 39.5 tons in 1949, that is to say 4.8 per cent. The amount manufactured by the three countries in 1948 was 6.5 tons and, assuming it to have been the same in 1949, the world total for that year would come to some 46 tons. That would be a new record, the previous record being 44.2 tons in 1948.

(6) Dionine

What has just been said of codeine applies equally to dionine. In this case, however, the absence of statistics for Czechoslovakia and Poland is of little importance, since production in those countries was negligible or non-existent. World production, excluding production in the USSR, for which 1949 figures are still lacking, rose from 3,558 kilograms in 1948 to 4,206 kilograms in 1949. Assuming that the USSR produced the same amount of the drug in 1949 as in 1948, i.e., 585 kilograms, the world total for 1949 would be 4,791 kilograms. That would be the highest figure so far recorded, the previous maximum being 4,143 kilograms in 1948.

(7) Cocaine

World production of cocaine increased from 1,506 kilograms in 1948 to 1,594 kilograms in 1949, i.e., 6 per cent; it remains, however, among the smallest recorded by the Board and is about one-half of the figure reached in the years preceding the war.

According to the statistics supplied by the competent authorities in the USSR, domestic cocaine production before the 1939-1945 war averaged about 270 kilograms a year and was used to meet the country's medical and scientific requirements. Since the end of the war, according to the same statistics, no cocaine or raw materials for cocaine (coca leaves, ecgonine, crude cocaine) have been produced or were in stock in the USSR; nevertheless, 198 kilograms of crude cocaine were exported to Switzerland in 1948 and 1949. This country subsequently re-exported pure cocaine to the USSR.

Conclusions

In spite of the absence of some important statistics of manufactured drugs, the following trends are to be observed. The production of morphine, codeine and dionine continued to increase in 1949 and, without a doubt, reached a record figure during that year; but, as a matter of fact, the quantity of morphine produced for use as such has slightly decreased during recent years. Allowance must, however, be made for the fact that pethidine (Dolantin, Demerol, Dolosal, etc.), a synthetic drug of almost world-wide use as a substitute for morphine since the end of the 1939-1945 war, is at present being turned out in quantities superior (at least, in weight, if not in therapeutic potency), to the amount of morphine produced for use as such. At the date of the present report, pethidine has not yet been brought under the control established by the international conventions on narcotic drugs.

The production of a group of drugs comprising dihydrohydroxycodeinone, dihydrocodeinone, dihydromorphinone, acetyldihydrocodeinone and methyldihydromorphinone, continued at the record level it attained in 1948. The production of diacetylmorphine and of cocaine is lower than it generally was before the 1939-1945 war.

The Board has had frequent occasion to complain in the foregoing paragraphs of the absence of statistics from a few countries which are large producers of one or other of the narcotic drugs covered by the International Conventions of 1925 and 1931. It gives it pleasure, on the other hand, to be able to mention, in conclusion, that the majority of the other countries have supplied it with all the statistics provided for under those Conventions and have duly rendered account of their supplies of narcotic drugs. For some of them, and, in particular, the countries manufacturing and exporting such substances, the present system of international control throws a considerable burden of work on various governmental authorities, and the Board wishes to express its high appreciation of the collaboration and support it has received from them in the performance of its duties.