Eleventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 23 April to 18 May 1956. At the first meeting it elected as officers :


Pages: 45 to 46
Creation Date: 1956/01/01


Eleventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 23 April to 18 May 1956. At the first meeting it elected as officers :

Mr. J. H. WALKER (United Kingdom), Chairman,

Mr. H. J. ANSLINGER (USA), (in absentia), Vice-Chairman

Dr. Amin ISMAIL (Egypt), Rapporteur

The main items on the agenda were the following : the implementation of narcotics treaties and international control; the illicit traffic; the proposed Single Convention on narcotic drugs; the request of Afghanistan to be recognized as a State producing opium for export; the problems of drug addiction, coca leaf, cannabis, synthetic narcotic drugs; and scientific research on opium. The Commission decided to defer three questions until its twelfth session - the problem of barbiturates, the problem of khat, and the establishment of a United Nations Middle East Anti-Narcotics Bureau.

Representatives of Afghanistan, the Federal Republic of Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland and Thailand participated in the consideration of items of particular concern to them.

Representatives of the World Health Organization, the Permanent Central Opium Board, Drug Supervisory Body, Permanent Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States, International Criminal Police Organization, World Federation of the United Nations Associations, and the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations also took part in the work of the Commission.

The Commission took a number of decisions, the principal of which are mentioned below, and recommended resolutions to the Economic and Social Council dealing with the implementation of the narcotics treaties, technical assistance for narcotics control in general, and technical assistance to Iran in particular, which are noted under the next heading.

Illicit Traffic

In accordance with the established procedure, the Committee on Illicit Traffic, consisting of a nucleous of eight members of the Commission and with the attendance of four other members undertook a review of all the available material relating to the illicit traffic, basing itself upon the work of its Committee.

The Commission noted that opium and its derivatives, in particular morphine and diacetylmorphine, continued to be by far the most important drugs seized in the internal and international illicit traffic. There was no apparent decline in the traffic in raw opium, which, as in the past, seemed to be concentrated in the Far East and the Near and Middle East. A particularly disturbing feature of this traffic was the movement of opium from the interior of Asia through Thailand. The tendency commented upon by the Commission last year, for conversion into morphine and diacetylmorphine to take place nearer the source of cultivation of the opium, appeared to be increasing.

The Commission felt grave concern at the striking increase in seizures of morphine base and crude morphine hydrochloride; the most significant feature of the traffic was the existence of clandestine manufacture in both the Far East and the Near and Middle East. The Commission observed with serious misgiving that seizures of diacetylmorphine had also significantly increased and that clandestine manufacturing activities had been reported by several countries. North America continued to be the destination of much of the more highly organized traffic in this drug.

Seizures of prepared opium were significant mainly in the Far East and the Near and Middle East. Besides being a natural sequel to the traffic in raw opium in these regions, it indicated the existence of a deep-rooted habit despite the legal prohibition of opium smoking almost without exception in these regions.

Although the long-term decline in the quantities of cocaine seized throughout the world continued, it was observed that there was a persistent though small traffic in this drug in the Far East, Near and Middle East, Europe and North America.

The Commission observed that consumers of cannabis numbered millions in the world and that geographically it was the most widespread drug of addiction. A large proportion of this traffic consisted of indigenous production and consumption, largely of the less concentrated forms. International illicit traffic was likewise to a large extent between countries with common frontiers and was generally not very highly organized. There was also a widespread though small-scale traffic carried on largely by merchant seamen. However, there were some important exceptions to this general pattern; the traffic in hashish in the Near and Middle East, the traffic in charas in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent which appeared to be declining, and the traffic in marihuana to the United States by overland and sea routes.

Some seizures of very small quantities of synthetic drugs, particularly in Europe, were noted. However, appreciable seizures of dimethylthiambutene were reported from Japan, and the Commission was informed that these seizures had their origin in stocks concealed prior to the extension of national control to this drug. The Commission also noted that there had occurred diversions of small quantities of synthetic drugs from licit sources of the same kind as have long been known to exist in respect of natural drugs.

The Commission specially reviewed the illicit traffic situation in the Lebanon and Thailand and the opium situation in Iran. It expressed its sympathy with the difficult problems of control facing the Lebanese and Thai authorities and expressed its appreciation of their efforts in combating the illicit traffic. It decided that the situations in the Middle East and the Far East were to a large extent regional problems involving also other countries in these regions, and requested that technical representatives from these other countries should participate in the relevant debates at future sessions. With regard to Iran, the Commission took note of the recent information regarding opium addiction in that country and of the law totally banning the cultivation of the opium poppy and use of opium in Iran. It expressed its appreciation of the bold step taken and decided to keep a close watch on developments in that country.

Finally, the Commission made certain recommendations to assist the fight against illicit traffic. It drew attention to the need ( a) for severe penalties for traffickers; ( b) for close liaison between the different services of national administrations entrusted with the control and supervision of drugs; ( c) for better exchange of information relating to the illicit traffic, both directly between governments and through the intermediary of international agencies; ( d) for better co-operation in the matter of origin of drugs seized in the illicit traffic, and in this connexion to send samples of seized opium to the Secretary-General so as to use modem laboratory techniques in the determination of origin.


The Commission noted that all but fourteen countries had either prohibited the manufacture, import, export and in some cases the use of diacetylmorphine, or adopted a policy of prohibition. The majority of representatives on the Commission expressed the opinion that that drug could be replaced by other less dangerous drugs, but the view was also expressed that it was still irreplaceable especially for the treatment of incurable diseases.


The Commission noted that a number of countries where cannabis is grown for industrial purposes reported that there was no diversion of cannabis from the licit fibre or seed crops. Experiments were being undertaken in some countries to breed a narcotic-free variety of cannabis.

Coca Leaf

The Commission thanked the Government of Peru for the measures taken in order to control the production of the coca leaf, to abolish gradually the habit of coca leaf chewing, and to develop suitable programmes of health education among the population concerned. It decided to invite observers of the countries in which coca leaf is grown or chewed (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Indonesia) to participate in its discussion of the coca leaf question at its twelfth session.

Synthetic Narcotic Drugs

The Commission asked the secretariat to prepare a general study of the world situation as regards synthetic narcotics and adopted a resolution in which, inter alia, it recommended governments to prohibit, except for medical or scientific research, the production, distribution and use of such new narcotic drugs as, in their opinion, were not indispensable to public health. It urged governments to encourage scientists to continue their research for analgesics without addiction-producing properties, and to pay special attention to the emergence of new narcotic drugs to ensure that no new drug which was or might be addition-producing should be placed on sale without control, even though the World Health Organization might not have pronounced upon its addiction-producing quality. It invited governments to make the medical and allied professions aware of any new narcotic drugs especially dangerous to public health that might be placed on the market.


The Commission adopted a resolution noting the dangers arising from the abuse of amphetamines and recommended that governments should provide adequate measures of control for the prevention of such abuse.

Drug Addiction

The Commission noted that there were millions of addicts to opium, cannabis and coca leaf, and hundreds of thousands of addicts to manufactured drugs, and that drug addiction represented a very serious problem in a number of countries, especially where the illicit traffic in narcotics was an important factor in organized crime. There was generally no marked improvement in the situation; on the contrary, morphine and heroin addiction seemed to be increasing throughout the world. The Commission requested the Secretariat to prepare a general paper on drug addiction for its twelfth session.