Legal trade in narcotics in 1956


Legal trade in narcotics in 1956


Trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs in 1955


Pages: 41 to 43
Creation Date: 1957/01/01

Legal trade in narcotics in 1956

The Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board[1] to the Economic and Social Council on its work during 1956[2] is on the agenda both of the twelfth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twenty-fourth session of the Council. This report presents an over-all picture for 1955 of the legal trade in narcotics throughout the world as it is shown by the analysis of the statistics submitted to the Board by governments, in pursuance of the international conventions of 19 February 1925 and 13 July 1931, and of the Protocol of 19 November 1948. Extracts of the report of the Permanent Central Opium Board follow.

Trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs in 1955


(a) Opium

Four countries alone produce almost all the opium licitly used in the world. They are, in the order of magnitude of their production in 1955, India, Turkey, USSR and Iran. As from 1956, Iran, where opium-poppy cultivation was prohibited by the Act of 7 October 1955, will cease to appear as one of this group. Five other countries produce opium licitly, but in much smaller quantities: Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Japan and Bulgaria.

Production shows a different trend in each producing country. In India, it has gone down, from 438 tons in 1954 to 362 tons in 1955. In Turkey, it has risen from 71 tons in 1954, a year of poor harvests, to 222 tons in 1955; but even so it is lower than in 1952 (466 tons) and 1953 (321 tons). Production in the USSR remains at the same level; 103 tons in 1954, 109 tons in 1955. In Iran, it declined from 144 tons in 1954 to 95 tons in 1955.

Taken as a whole, the production of these four countries has risen from 756 tons in 1954 to 788 tons in 1955.

In three of the five smaller producers, production showed an increase: in Bulgaria it rose from 1.2 in 1954 to 1.8 tons in 1955; in Japan, a country which is resuming its place among opium producers, from 32 kg. to 2.3 tons; and inYugoslavia, from 12 tons to 26.9 tons. In Pakistan, on the other hand, it dropped from 4.6 to 2.6 tons. Excluding production in Afghanistan, for which an estimate is now for the first time submitted by the Government of that country, and which is set at 30 tons for 1955, the total output of the smaller producing countries was 34 tons in 1955. On this basis, world licit production in 1955 was about 820 tons, against 773 tons in 1954 and 1,295 tons in 1953.

Licitly produced opium is mainly used for the manufacture of morphine: 658 tons were so used in 1955, or 44 tons more than in 1954. The major part (85%) of the morphine thus obtained is then converted into codeine. The demand for codeine, which is steadily increasing, thus remains the prime factor determining opium requirements. On the other hand, licit use of opium for quasi-medical and non-medical purposes is declining, chiefly on account of the government measures taken in India to reduce such consumption year by year, until it is finally abolished in 1959; the quantities thus consumed in that country amounted to 84 tons in 1954 and 67 tons in 1955. This use also exists in Pakistan, where it accounted for 14 tons in 1954, and 15 tons in 1955. Two countries still report licit consumption exclusively for non-medical purposes: Laos consuming 19 kg., and Thailand, where the 17 tons of Monopoly opium which were sold to smokers in 1955 seem to have been derived, as in previous years, from confiscations in the illicit traffic.

1 Document E/OB/12, November 1956.

2 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 on 1952, see idem, Vol. V, No. 1; for the report on 1953, see idem, Vol. VI, No. 1; for the report on 1954, see idem, Vol. VII, No. 1; for the report on 1955, see idem, Vol. VIII, No. 1.

In fact, the figures of production and utilization of opium in 1955 show a parallel increase. However, the moisture content of opium is higher at the production stage than at the time of utilization. If the quantities produced and the quantities used are expressed in terms of opium of like moisture content, it will be found that requirements exceeded production, as was also the case in 1954. The production deficit in those two years was covered by withdrawals from producers' stocks, which thereby fell from 1,410 tons at the end of 1953 to 1,270 tons at the end of 1954 and 1,142 tons at the end of 1955. On the other hand, stocks held at the end of these years in countries other than producing countries showed little change, amounting to 324, 369 and 393 tons respectively. Despite the withdrawals, therefore, world stocks at 31 December 1955-namely, 1,535 tons-were still equivalent to 23 months' requirements.

(b) Poppy Straw

In 1955, 17.1 tons of morphine, or 19.4% of total production, were obtained from this raw material, whereas for 1954 the corresponding figures were 18.4 tons, or 21.7% and for 1953 19.5 tons or 26.4%. It would therefore seem that poppy straw has for the time being, at any rate, lost some of its importance as a raw material for the manufacture of morphine. In point of fact, it is the over-all yield which has dropped, the quantity of poppy straw processed being higher than in previous years. In 1955, all the countries making use of this raw material, with the exception of Argentina, Netherlands and Poland, extracted less morphine from it than in 1953 and 1954. As for Hungary-the country where this manufacturing process originated-in 1955 for the first time substantial quantities of raw opium were utilized as well as poppy straw. On the other hand, Belgium and Norway began using poppy straw for the manufacture of morphine, and obtained respectively 2 kg. and 34 kg. of the drug in this way.

(c) Coca Leaves

For 1954, the Board received statistics from all the countries known to produce coca leaves; for 1955, on the other hand, Bolivia's figures are missing. The Board has accordingly been unable to determine world production trends for that year.

Certain conclusions may nevertheless be drawn from the figures of the other producing countries. Production in Peru, which alone accounted for three-quarters of world production in 1954, increased by 49 tons in 1955, reaching the figure of 9,956 tons, the highest ever declared by that country. Production in Colombia remains steady at 180 tons and that of Indonesia, which amounted to 26 tons in 1954, did not exceed 21 tons in 1955, so that declared production totalled 10,157 tons in 1955. To obtain an idea of world production, the figure for Bolivian production, 3,000 tons in 1954, must be added to that amount.

In 1954 licit non-medical consumption of coca leaves, which is confined to a few South American countries, was about twenty times greater than the amount used for medical purposes (i.e., the manufacture of cocaine) throughout the world. This ratio has presumably remained much the same in 1955, when 620 tons of leaves were used for such manufacture, as against 588 tons in 1954.

In the countries which supply statistics for their non-medical consumption-i.e., chewing-or for which the Board has been able to make a rough calculation, such consumption has been as follows:









173 170 213 129 155
117 125 120 110 100
8,731 9,427 9,134 9,250 9,319

(d) Cannabis

In 1955, 23 countries or non-self-governing territories (as against 27 in 1954) continued to use cannabis for medical or quasi-medical purposes, the quantity amounting to 768 kg., as against 862 kg. in 1954. In both years by far the largest consumer was India. The statistics for 1955 of at least three countries where such preparations are used are, however, still outstanding. It would appear, therefore, that the Economic and Social Council's recommendation of 1954 requesting countries to discontinue the medical use of cannabis, which the World Health Organization considers to be obsolete, has not yet had much effect.

Non-medical consumption of cannabis and of its resin by addicts is almost world wide and extends over vast areas. It must reach a considerable volume, for the confiscations made on account of illicit imports or exports alone totalled 47 tons in 1955.


(a) Morphine

Morphine production is determined by two factors-the demand for this drug as an analgesic and its use for the manufacture of derivatives. The former is the less important, world consumption of morphine having fallen to 4.5 tons in 1955. The second, however, is the determining factor since in the same year 83 tons of morphine were converted into other drugs. Of these, the manufacture of codeine alone absorbed nine-tenths of the amount, the balance having been used for the manfuacture of ethylmorphine, pholcodine, diacetylmorphine, hydromorphone, dihydromorphine, benzylmorphine and apomorphine.

To meet the continuously increasing demand for codeine, larger quantities of morphine have had to be manufactured each year: 85 tons in 1954 and 88.3 tons in 1955. The latter figure does not include production in Spain, which had not sent in figures by the date of this report. In 1954, Spain's production was 0.5 ton. In any event, morphine production in 1955 reached the highest figure ever recorded by the Board.

The expansion of morphine manufacture, evidenced in 1955 by increases of over 1 ton each in Hungary, the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany, is not, however; observable in all the producing countries and during 1955 production fell in seven of them, notably in the USSR (-0.9 ton), Japan (-0.8 ton) and the German Democratic Republic (-0.6 ton).

(b) Diacetylmorphine

Five countries reported having produced diacetylmorphine in 1955: United Kingdom (119 kg.), Belgium (8 kg.), Portugal (6 kg.), France (3 kg) and Hungary (3 kg.). The last two countries, which produced none in 1954, resumed manufacture in 1955, and the total of 139 kg. for that year is 7 kg. greater than the 1954 aggregate. The United Kingdom having decided to postpone banning the use of this drug, the expected decrease in production has not occurred. On the other hand, manufacture was recently prohibited in Portugal.

Consumption also has gone up, from 147 kg. in 1954 to 166 kg. in 1955. The increase was most marked in the United Kingdom, probably because chemists and hospitals had been stocking up in anticipation of the proposed ban on the manufacture of the drug in that country. The increase of 28 kg. in the United Kingdom's consumption is offset by a reduction of 15 kg. in Canada, where importation has been prohibited. Trade in diacetylmorphine, which was formerly substantial, is now confined to negligible quantities. Altogether, 2.5 kg. were exported in 1955 by five countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Federal Republic of Germany.

Wholesalers' and government stocks fell from 274 kg. at the end of 1954 to 246 kg. at the end of 1955. This reduction may be attributed to the fact that some of the countries which have prohibited the manufacture and importation of diacetylmorphine are none the less allowing it to be consumed until their stocks are exhausted.

(c) Codeine

The upward curve of world codeine consumption was further accentuated in 1955, rising from 71 tons in 1954 to 76 tons in 1955. Production in 1955 remained at the same level, doubtless because 1954 production exceeded requirements and stocks had risen. In 1955, production and consumption were in balance.

(d) Ethylmorphine (dionine)

Word consumption of ethylmorphine, which had been rising for several years, fell off slightly in 1955. Production, after remaining below consumption in 1953 and 1954, failed to follow the consumption trend in 1955 and continued to rise, reaching a total of 5.8 tons. Production in 1955 must therefore have been about three hundred kilogrammes greater than consumption.

(e) Other Derivatives of Opium Alkaloids

These derivatives are used in a large number of countries and non-self-governing territories, but the amount consumed in each case is generally less than 1 kg. so that it is difficult to define trends. Production, on the other hand, is concentrated in a few countries only, and may therefore serve as a guide to the trend of demand.

The following table gives, in order of magnitude, the figures for world production of these drugs in 1951, 1954 and 1955.

World Production







1,037 1,013a
419a 741 755a
49 526 559
436a 287 383a
104 113 125
114 147 103
64 46
3 4 5

(f) Cocaine

World consumption of cocaine, which had been steadily rising since 1951 and had reached 1,976 kg. in 1954, amounted to 1,876 kg. in 1955. World production continues to increase, having risen from 2,442 kg. in 1954 to 2,583 kg. in 1955. It exceeded requirements, and the surplus was transferred to stocks which, at the end of 1955, were sufficient for twenty months' consumption.

(g) Synthetic Narcotic Drugs

Pethidine.-Both production and consumption of this drug are expanding. While the increase in consumption is fairly general, it is most marked in the United States, where it rose from 7.3 tons in 1954 to 8.3 tons in 1955. The latter figure represents two-thirds of world consumption, which was 13.1 tons. The United States' share of production is even greater: 9.9 tons out of a total of 14.5 tons in 1955.

Methadone.-Consumption showed little change from 1954 to 1955, being 571 kg. and 549 kg. respectively. This decrease is the first to have been observed since the drug was brought under international control. Production varies considerably from one year to another-it was 609 kg. in 1954, and 461 kg. in 1955-and therefore can hardly be used as a pointer to demand.

Phenadoxone.-Consumption of this drug, which expanded fairly rapidly when it was first introduced a number of years ago, is now declining: from 67 kg. in 1951, it fell to 47 kg. in 1954 and 42 kg. in 1955. Production has followed a similar pattern.

Ketobemidone.-Only one country, Denmark, manufactured this drug in 1954 and 1955. Switzerland suspended manufacture in 1954 and did not resume it in 1955, so that total production moved from 110 kg. in 1953 to 24 kg. in 1954 and 40 kg. in 1955.

Whereas ten countries consumed at least 1 kg. of ketobemidone in 1954, there are two fewer in 1955: Argentina and Finland. The remaining eight consuming countries are Denmark (23 kg.), Federal Republic of Germany (21 kg.), Sweden (11 kg.), Switzerland (4 kg.), Italy (3 kg.), Norway (3 kg.), Belgium (2 kg.), and Portugal (1 kg.).

Other Synthetic Narcotic Drugs.-Besides the four already dealt with, there are 25 synthetic narcotic drugs under international control. The statistics, examined from both a quantitative and a geographical standpoint, make it clear that their use does not show any tendency to expand, the only exception being levorphanol,which is consumed in a number of countries though in very small quantities.

The total production of these other synthetic narcotic drugs in 1954 and 1955 in countries where such production reached 1 kg. per drug, is shown in the following table:

World Production






1-methyl-4-phenylpiperidine-4-carboxylic acid isopropyl ester
52 45
6 54

aData incomplete (most but not all the countries have furnished statistics).

Consumption of these twenty-five drugs is not widespread. The figures are given in the table below, accompanied by the number of countries where consumption has reached at least 1 kg.

World Consumption






Number of countries


Number of countries

1 - methyl-4-phenylpiperidine-4- carboxylic acid isopropyl ester
7 1 6 1
37 2 42 2
?-l,3-dimethyl-4-phenyl-4- propionoxypiperidine
8 1
2 1
4,4-diphenyl-6-piperidino-3- heptanone
1 1
4,4-diphenyl-6-dimethylamino-3 hexanone
3a 1a
24 5 26 5
3 1 4 1
3 1


The Board states that since the publication of its last report [1] the following narcotic drugs and their salts have been placed under international control by virtue of the provisions of the 1948 Protocol:

1,3-dimethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxyhexamethyleneimine; diethylthiambutene (3-diethylamino-l,1-di-(2'-thienyl)-1- butene);


4-morpholino-2,2-diphenyl ethyl butyrate;


They are subject to the regime applying to the drugs specified in article I, paragraph 2, Group I of the 1931 Convention, except for 4-dimethylamino-l,2-diphenyl-3-methyl-2-propionoxybutane, which has been placed in Group II.


a Incomplete (most but not all countries have furnished statistics).


Data incomplete (most but not all countries have furnished statistics).


1 See Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. VIII, No. 1.