Legal Trade in Narcotics in 1953




Pages: 102 to 103
Creation Date: 1955/01/01


Legal Trade in Narcotics in 1953

The Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board1 to the Economic and Social Council on its work during 19542 is on the agenda both of the tenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the 20th session of the Council. This report presents an over-all picture for 1953 of the production and consumption of narcotics, and of the licit traffic throughout the world as it is shown by the analysis of the statistics submitted to the Board by Governments. A brief summary of the features included in the report of the Permanent Central Opium Board follows.


Opium and coca leaves Opium and coca leaves

Although the total licit world production of opium is not accurately known, the statistics supplied to the Board reveal that it is increasing and that for the past two years it has exceeded licit requirements, which are, moreover, on the decrease. The resulting production surplus, which was quite large in 1953, has gone to swell producers' stocks; if this situation is not righted by limiting production more strictly to the level of requirements, serious problems might arise.

In 1954, the Board received statistics of coca leaf production in Peru. It is not possible to follow the trend of non-medical consumption of coca leaves, however, because of the absence of statistics from Bolivia. The requirements for the manufacture of cocaine for medical consumption are increasing, but this seems to represent a small part only of the total amount when compared with the licit non-medical consumption.

Manufactured drugs

The reduction in the manufacture of codeine noted in 1952 was not reflected in a decline in morphine production until the following year. In 1953, however, codeine production resumed its upward trend, and this process is likely to continue unless other non-narcotic drugs come forward gradually to take the place of codeine - a possibility which apparently must not be ruled out.


Document E/OB/10, November 1954, United Nations, Geneva, 1954.


For the Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board on its work in 1951, see Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. IV, No. 2; for the report in 1952, see idem., Vol. No. 1; for the report in 1953, see idem., Vol VI, No 1.

The manufacture of diacetylmorphine did not continue to fall in 1953. Production of dionine and cocaine remained at the same level as in the previous year. As for synthetic drugs, the manufacture of pethidine and methadone in 1953 was still below the peak figures reached in 1951.

Morphine and diacetylmorphine apart, the licit consumption of narcotic drugs as a whole is continuing to grow. The steady fall in morphine consumption is partly explained by the use of synthetic drugs; consumption of diacetylmorphine has decreased most probably as a result of the concerted efforts of national and international authorities to prohibit its use.

In 1929, just after the 1925 Convention came into force, world consumption of diacetylmorphine reached 2,651 kg; by 1948 it had fallen to 657 kg, and by 1952, to 266 kg. In 1953, the figure was less than one-tenth of the 1929 figure, having dropped to 207 kg, the lowest figure recorded to date. The countries which have submitted estimates for 1955 regarding this drug are the following:

United Kingdom

Argentina, Australia and Finland have prohibited further imports or manufacture of diacetylmorphine, and will cease consumption of this drug after their present stocks are exhausted. The fact that these three countries have nevertheless submitted estimates of the consumption of this drug for 1955 doubtless means that the Governments concerned have simply followed the provisions of the 1931 Convention in giving an estimate of the amounts still to be consumed.

In July 1954, the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution urging "Governments to prohibit the manufacture, import and export of ketobemidone, its salts, its preparations and preparations of its salts".3 The Board and the Supervisory Body had themselves gone into the question of this drug and wel come this resolution. The first figures to reach them for ketobemidone were given in the estimates for 1952, and showed that 12 countries or territories intended to use the drug during the year in question. The number increased to 29 in 1953 and 34 in 1954; the amount manufactured in 1952 was, according to statistics supplied to the Board, 137 kg, and in 1953, 110 kg.


See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. VI, No. 3-4.

The application of the 1948 Protocol has, to date, meant the placing under control of 20 new narcotic drugs (14 in 1951, 1 in 1952 and 5 in 1954), and steps are at present being taken to place four others under the same control.

Thus, the number of drugs which it is the Board's duty to control has doubled since 1951 when the 1948 Protocol began to be effectively applied.

The Board has noted that, with one or two exceptions, all the Governments which submitted statistics for 1953 included in them figures in respect of synthetic narcotic drugs. In this connexion, it notes that only 46 out of a total of 84 countries have ratified the 1948 Protocol up to the present date, and in particular that only one Latin-American country out of 20 appears among these 46.

The Board therefore suggests that those countries which have already placed under national control certain of the drugs covered by the 1948 Protocol and submit statistics on them, but which have not yet ratified this Protocol, might consider the possibility of doing so as soon as possible.4


See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. VI, No. 3.