Legal trade in narcotics

Abstract

The Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board 1 to the Economic and Social Council on its work during 19572 is on the agenda of both the thirteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twenty-sixth session of the Council. This report presents an over-all picture, for the years 1952 to 1956, with special emphasis on 1956, 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.

Details

Pages: 41 to 45
Creation Date: 1958/01/01

Legal trade in narcotics

The Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board 1 to the Economic and Social Council on its work during 19572 is on the agenda of both the thirteenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twenty-sixth session of the Council. This report presents an over-all picture, for the years 1952 to 1956, with special emphasis on 1956, 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

Raw Materials

(a) Opium

World licit opium production amounted to about 775 tons in 1956. Opium-poppy cultivation was banned in Iran in 1955, so that in 1956 there were only three countries which licitly produced opium in large quantities - India, Turkey and the USSR. Their production in that year was 348 tons, 277tons, and 105 tons respectively - i.e., 730 tons in all, or nine-tenths of the licit world production. Production declared by other countries in 1956 is divided as follows : 28 tons in Yugoslavia, 12 tons in Afghanistan, 2 tons in Japan and 1 ton in Bulgaria - i.e., 43 tons in all. Pakistan also produces a small quantity of opium, averaging 2.5 tons a year from 1952 to 1955, but has not yet supplied statistics for 1956.

During the period 1952-1956, production was highest in 1953 (1,295 tons); since then it has remained between 773 tons and 821 tons. The maximum and minimum figures for the principal producing countries are as follows : India, 629 tons in 1953 and 348 tons in 1956; Turkey, 466 tons in 1952 and 71 tons in 1954; Iran, 227 tons in 1953 and nil in 1956; USSR, 92 tons in 1953 and 109 tons in 1955. The production in other countries is too small for its fluctuations to influence the trend of world production. In considering these figures it should be remembered that weather conditions may give rise to wide variations from year to year.

Opium has three different licit uses : first, medical purposes; more than 90 per cent of quantities used in this way go into the manufacture of morphine (which is in turn almost all converted into codeine), and the rest into the compounding of medicinal preparations; secondly, quasi-medical purposes (ingestion of opium); and thirdly, exclusively non-medical purposes, in the form of prepared (smoking) opium. It is hardly necessary to add that much opium is also smoked illicitly, and the quantity used in this way cannot even be conjectured.

Document E/OB/13, November 1957.

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; for the report on 1956, see idem,vol. IX, No. 1.

During the period 1952-1956, the increase in medical requirements was offset by a reduction in licit use for quasi-medical and non-medical purposes, so that the total of licit requirements taken together was nearly the same in 1956 as in 1952. India has the highest licit quasi-medical and non-medical consumption in absolute figures. The quantity so consumed, however, is diminishing year by year as a result of the Government's decision that such consumption should cease by 1959, and from 131 tons in 1952 it fell to 42 tons in 1956. Consumption of the same nature, involving some 15 tons a year, also exists in Pakistan and shows no sign of decreasing. In 1956, the exclusively non-medical licit consumption of opium (opium smoking) continued only in Thailand, where it accounted for 17 tons, and in Laos, where it amounted to a few score kilogrammes.

Reduced as far as possible to a common ratio of opium consistency, the figures of production and utilization show that in 1952 and 1953 world production was in excess of requirements, while it fell short in the three following years. Nevertheless, stocks, which stood at 1,240 tons at the beginning of 1952, had reached about 1,350 tons at the end of 1956, and this quantity alone would suffice to meet world requirements for nearly two years.

(b) Poppy Straw

The data which the conventions require governments to supply to the Board regarding poppy straw refer only to the quantity utilized for the manufacture of morphine and to the quantity of morphine thus produced.

The total quantity of morphine manufactured by this process was on the increase until 1953, when it reached a peak figure of 19.5 tons. Since then it has diminished, and in 1956 amounted to only 12.8 tons. That is to say, in 1953, it represented 26.4 per cent of world manufacture of morphine whereas in 1956 the proportion was only 14.7 per cent. Since 1953 there has been no reduction in the number of countries using this process, but on the whole, and especially in Hungary and the Federal Republic of Germany, less poppy straw has been used in this way. The yield also is diminishing : it averaged 2 kg of morphine per thousand kilogrammes of straw in 1953, as against only 1.5 kg in 1956.

(c) Coca Leaves

In the whole history of the Board it has only once been possible to arrive even at a broad estimate of licit world production of coca leaves. This was in 1954, when the figure was put at 13,113 tons. Even this estimate does not include the quantities harvested in certain South American countries where the leaves are used exclusively for non-medical purposes.

For 1956, three countries declared their licit coca-leaf production : Peru (9,689 tons), Colombia (150 tons) and Indonesia (18 tons). Bolivia reported its production in 1954 only - viz. 3,000 tons - at which figure it would assume second place among producers. The information at the disposal of the Board is thus altogether insufficient to enable it to distinguish world production trends. This can only be done in respect of the three countries which have regulary declared their crop : Peru, Colombia and Indonesia.

In 1955, production in Peru reached 9,956 tons, the highest figure which this country has ever declared to the Board; in 1956 it declined to 9,689 tons, which was the level of production in 1952. In Colombia, production is clearly falling, dropping from 198 tons in 1952 to 150 tons in 1956. Production in Indonesia, after increasing to 26 tons in 1954, declined in the following years, but the figure for 1956 (18 tons) remains very close to that declared for 1952.

According to information supplied by the governments of four of the countries where the habit of chewing the coca leaf exists, such non-medical consumption was as follows :

( Tons )

 

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

Peru
9,427 9,134 9,250 9,319 9,452
Bolivia
?
?
2,764
?
?
Argentina
170 213 129 155 14
Colombia
125 120 110 100 80

All four countries have declared their intention of progressively eliminating this habit.

The quantities of coca leaves utilized for medical purposes - i.e., the manufacture of cocaine - which between 1952 and 1955 rose steadily from 300 to 623 tons, fell in 1956 to their 1952 level. In a previous report3 the Board estimated that in 1954 the licit non-medical consumption of coca in the four above-mentioned countries was about twenty times as great as the world's total medical requirements. In 1956 it was thirty times as great, without even taking into account non-medical consumption in Bolivia for which the figure is unknown.

(d) Cannabis

In 1954 the Economic and Social Council invited governments to take steps to discontinue the medical use of Cannabis, which the World Health Organization considers to be obsolete. At that time, 862 kg of cannabis were consumed for medical or quasi-medical purposes in 26 countries or non-metropolitan territories, 357 kg of which in India alone. In 1955, consumption continued in 25 countries and territories, giving, a total of 825 kg, of which 284 kg were consumed in India. The figures for 1956 are still incomplete, since those of India (which is the principal consumer), Brazil and Pakistan have not yet arrived; nevertheless, the statistics at present available show that the total consumption, in absolute figures, has hardly diminished in the year, although it ceased in four countries.

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

Manufactured Drugs

(a) Morphine

After showing a fall in 1953, morphine production resumed its upward curve, reaching 89 tons in 1955, the highest figure ever recorded, and retreating only slightly in 1956 to 87 tons. Requirements, however, have continued to increase; in 1956, as in 1953 and 1954, they reached a higher figure than production and the differences were made good by withdrawals from stocks.

The quantity of morphine converted into other substances grows larger every year : in 1956 it reached a total of 85 tons, as against 70 in 1952. This development was particularly marked in the United Kingdom, in Japan, in Poland, in the Federal Republic of Germany and in France. Not all countries, however, shared in it : in the United States this use of morphine has levelled off, and it is falling in Hungary, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. In 1956 the manufacture of codeine alone absorbed 89% of the total production of morphine; that of ethylmorphine and pholcodine 7% and 0.9% respectively, while that of diacetylmorphine, hydromorphone and of substances not liable to form addiction absorbed a total of 0.1%. Thus, 97% of the morphine manufactured in 1956 was converted into other substances, as against 90% in 1952.

Finally, the demand for morphine as an analgesic, which amounted to 5 tons in 1952, fell to 4 tons in 1956; it is declining in forty of the some sixty countries where the consumption of morphine for this purpose usually reaches at least 1 kg a year, the most noteworthy drop in terms of absolute figures being observed in the United States and in India.

(b) Diacetylmorphine

In 1956 three countries still manufactured diacetylmorphine : the United Kingdom (37 kg), Hungary (12 kg) and Belgium (11 kg). The entire Hungarian production and a quarter of the United Kingdom production went into the manufacture of nalorphine, a non-addiction-forming substance. Leaving aside quantities converted in this way, the net world production of diacetylmorphine was 39 kg in 1956, the lowest ever recorded.

Only two countries, Belgium and France, exported diacetylmorphine in 1956, but this was in small quantity : 1.1 kg in all. In 1952, when there were five countries exporting this drug, the figure was 68 kg.

Consumption in 1956 was equal to or in excess of 1 kg in ten countries : the United Kingdom (58 kg), Belgium (12 kg), Canada (6 kg), France (6 kg), Portugal (4 kg), Finland (2 kg), Argentina (1 kg), Italy (1 kg), the Netherlands (1 kg) and Romania (1 kg). India, a regular consumer (6 kg in 1955), has not yet supplied the figure for 1956. Total consumption (92 kg), and even that of manufacturing countries alone (70 kg), was thus greater than production. This trend has naturally had an effect on stocks, which were reduced from 228 kg at the end of 1955 to 167 kg at the end of 1956 (not including the stocks of India on either of these dates). Moreover, in several countries the utilization of diacetylmorphine will cease when the stocks are exhausted.

These figures show to what a considerable extent countries have followed the recommendation of the International Conference of 1931, seconded by the efforts of the World Health Organization and other international bodies, to put an end to the use of diacetylmorphine in therapy.

(c) Codeine

World consumption of codeine continues to increase; from 58 tons in 1952 it reached 76 tons in 1956. With a few exceptions (Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United States), all countries where the annual consumption is usually greater than 10 kg per million inhabitants have contributed to this increase.

Production has followed a similar trend, rising from 65 tons in 1952 to 80 tons in 1956.

(d) Ethylmorphine

In the period 1952-1956 the production of ethylmorphine has varied little, the minimum being in 1953 (5.1 tons) and the maximum in 1955 (5.9 tons). Consumption increased, rising from 4.8 tons in 1952 to 5.9 tons in 1956. The increase was most marked in France : from 0.8 ton in 1952 to 1.9 ton in 1956.

(e) Other Derivatives of Opium Alkaloids

It is not possible to distinguish trends in the consumption of these narcotic drugs, because it is spread over a large number of countries and non-metropolitan territories and in the majority of them does not reach 1 kg. On the other hand, production being concentrated in a few countries, affords a good indication of the development of the demand.

World Production

( Kilogrammes )

 

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

Narcotic drugs falling under Group I of the Convention of 1931:
         
Hydrocodone
533*
704*
741 761 1,011
Oxycodone
156*
247*
287 430 397
Thebacon
173 90 147 103 133
Dihydromorphine
--
--
--
31 49
Hydromorphone
100 108 113 125 20
Benzylmorphine
55 70 64 46
--
Desomorphine
2
--
--
--
--
Narcotic drugs falling under Group II of the Convention of 1931:
         
Dihydrocodeine
91*
592 1,040 1,039 1,481
Pholcodine
**
206 526 561 861
Acetyldihydrocodeine
2 1 4 5 3

* Incomplete.

** This narcotic drug was brought under international control during 1952.

These figures permit of the following conclusions : for dihydrocodeine, pholcodine and hydrocodone, the trend is upward; the same applies to oxycodone and hydromorphone, but only until 1955, since the following year saw a reduction; the manufacture of benzylmorphine diminished from 1953 to 1955, and ceased in 1956; manufacture of thebacon underwent considerable fluctuations; desomorphine has not been manufactured since 1952. The manufacture of other drugs is too small or their introduction too recent, to enable a trend to be discerned.

(f) Crude Cocaine

Only Peru produces crude cocaine for export. Such production, which had ceased in 1949, recommenced in 1954. The 202 kg produced in that year were not exported, and this no doubt explains the small production in the following year (13 kg). In 1956 manufacture revived, but only 189 kg of the 730 kg produced in that year were exported. Thus at the end of 1956 Peru had a stock of 683 kg.

In other countries crude cocaine manufacture is merely an intermediate stage in the manufacture of cocaine.

(g) Cocaine

Cocaine consumption showed an upward curve from 1952 (1,757 kg) to 1954 (1,976 kg), then dropped until 1956 (1,722 kg).

The production and consumption curves are not parallel and they coincided in 1956. For the four years 1952 to 1955 there was over-production and several countries either established stocks or added to them, while in 1956 this trend ceased. Stocks at the end of 1956 would correspond to nearly two years' consumption.

(h) Synthetic Narcotic Drugs

Pethidine. - Pethidine consumption has been increasing from year to year, rising from 10.3 tons in 1952 to 13.5 tons in 1956. The increase was, however, most marked in 1955. Pethidine is consumed practically throughout the entire world, but the 9 tons consumed in the United States in 1956 represented two-thirds of world consumption in that year.

After some decline in 1953 the production of pethidine increased in the two following years and then remained stationary (15 tons). During the whole period from 1952 to 1956 - with the exception of 1953 - production exceeded consumption and the surplus was put into stocks. At the end of 1956 these were equal to about one year's consumption.

Normethadone. - This narcotic drug was brought under control in November 1954, but production statistics are only complete from 1956. In that year 1,571 kg were manufactured in the Federal Republic of Germany, 20 kg in Italy and 5 kg in Finland. Consumption figures are incomplete because the Federal Republic of Germany, which must be the largest consumer of this drug, has not brought it under the national control applying to narcotic drugs and has so far only declared its 1956 production. Five countries declared consumption of normethadone in 1956 : Belgium (13 kg), Australia (4 kg), the Netherlands (2 kg), Switzerland (2 kg) and Finland (1 kg). Brazil, which imports the drug, has not yet declared its consumption.

Methadone. - The consumption of methadone increased steadily and in 1954 reached the figure of 570 kg, the highest ever recorded. Since then it has been falling, to 539 kg in 1955 and 450 kg in 1956.

Production and consumption figures show parallel trends. Taken as a whole, production during the period 1952-1956 fell short of consumption, with the result that the stocks decreased from 1,140 kg at the beginning of 1952 to 873 kg at the end of 1956. The latter figure, however, still corresponds to two years' consumption at the present rate.

Ketobemidone. - In 1956 eight countries (five in 1952) consumed 1 kg or more of ketobemidone : the Federal Republic of Germany (21 kg), Denmark (19 kg), Sweden (10 kg), Italy (4 kg), Norway (4 kg), Switzerland (4 kg), Belgium (2 kg) and Finland (2 kg). In the years 1952 to t956 world consumption was as follows :

( Kilogrammes )

 

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

World consumption
25*
52*
64 68 66
Number of countries which consumed 1 kg or more
5*
8 10 8 8

Two countries manufactured ketobemidone, Denmark and Switzerland

( Kilogrammes )

 

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

Production
         
Denmark
12 35 24 40 35
Switzerland
125**
75**
--
--
12
TOTAL
137 110 24 40 47

* Incomplete.

** In terms of salts.

Phenadoxone. - In 1956 this narcotic drug was manufactured only in the United Kingdom (31 kg) and Austria (1 kg); production reached its maximum in 1951, with a total of 144 kg, fell to 38 kg in 1952 and has remained stationary since then.

For 1956 only three countries declared a consumption of 1 kg or more of this drug : the United Kingdom (23 kg), the Union of South Africa (3 kg), and Australia (1 kg) - i.e., 27 kg in all, as against 63 kg in 1952.

Others. - Apart from the five synthetic narcotic drugs dealt with above, there are another 27 under international control. As can be deduced from the following tables, none of them is yet manufactured in large quantity or consumed in many countries.

World Production

(Only narcotic drugs whose production reached 1 kg in at least one country are mentioned)

( Kilogrammes )

Narcotic drug (Date of placing under control)

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

Alphaprodine (Mar. 1951)
19 24 52 45 51
Diethylthiambutene (Dec. 1955)
 
 
 
 
15
Levorphanol (Apr. 1951)
48 11 10 54 14
Dioxaphetyl butyrate (Dec. 1955)
 
 
 
 
5
Racemorphan (Apr. 1951)
38*
31*
2
-
-
Isomethadone (Mar. 1951)
-
24
-
-
-
Properidine (Nov. 1954)
 
 
 
11
 
Betaprodine (Mar. 1951)
2
-
-
-
-

* Incomplete.

World Consumption

(Only narcotic drugs whose consumption reached 1 kg in at least one country or territory are mentioned; the number of these countries or territories is given in parentheses)

( Kilogrammes )

Narcotic drug

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

Alphaprodine
13 (1) 21 (1) 37 (2) 42 (2) 40 (2)
Levorphanol
19* (4*)
23* (5)
24 (5) 26 (5) 16 (4)
Anileridine
 
 
 
 
15 (1)
Properidine
 
 
7 (1) 6 (1) 9 (1)
Betaprodine
1 (1) 3 (1)
-
8 (1) 8 (1)
Diethylthiambutene
 
 
 
3 (1) 5 (1)
Dimethykhiambutene **
 
 
3 (1) 4 (1) 3 (1)
Dioxaphetyl butyrate
 
 
 
 
2 (1)
Dipipanone ***
 
 
 
1 (1) 1 (1)
Isomethadone
-
18 (1) 2 (1)
-
-

* Incomplete.

** Under control since November 1953.

*** Under control since November 1954.

New Narcotic Drugs

The Board states that since the publication of its last report4 the following narcotic drugs and their salts have been placed under international control by virtue of the provisions of the Protocol of 1948 :

Alphameprodine (α-I-methyl-3-ethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxypiperidine);

Anileridine (I-[2-(p-aminophenyl)-ethyl]-4-phenylpiperidine-4-carboxylic acid ethyl ester).

Further, the same control regime has been applied provisionally to the following narcotic drug :

Dextromoramide (d-3-methyl-2, 2-diphenyl-4-morpholino-butyryl-pyrrolidine), also known as R.875 and Palfium.

These narcotic drugs fall under the control provisions laid down for the drugs of Group I, which are mentioned in article I,paragraph 2, of the 1931 Convention.

Conclusions

This being the last report to be submitted by the present members of the Board, they have assessed the application of the Conventions during their whole five-year term of office and have reached , inter alia, the following conclusions :

On the whole there has been a distinct improvement in the operation of the system of control. In particular, statistics have been fuller and more accurate and have been more promptly submitted. To some extent, however, the work of the Board has continued to be hampered by incompleteness or delay in arrival of the returns of some governments and by failure to reply to requests for information; and there has also regrettably been a complete or almost complete lack of co-operation on the part of a few governments.

Because of difficulties inherent in the circumstances in which they are produced, the primary narcotic substances do not readily lend themselves to control by means of statistics and the system is still far from being fully effective.

See Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. IX, No. 1.

On the other hand, the information supplied to the Board in regard to "manufactured" drugs was both accurate and comprehensive.

One of the effects of the controls introduced by the 1925 and 1931 Conventions has been to reduce almost to vanishing point the possibility of addicts obtaining narcotic drugs from licit sources and, while there are still great numbers of addicts throughout the world, they are now obliged to look rather to sources which are, in the main, outlawed. It has thus become possible to draw a clear distinction between licit and illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

The value of these conventions is thus well established, despite certain weaknesses and imperfections which experience has revealed in some of their provisions. It is right to record, however, that the success which has been achieved is due primarily to the high sense of responsibility displayed by most countries in this regard, including some which are not parties to the conventions.