The legal trade in narcotics

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TRENDS IN THE LICIT MOVEMENT OF NARCOTIC DRUGS IN 1957
SHORTCOMINGS IN NATIONAL CONTROL

Details

Pages: 47 to 51
Creation Date: 1959/01/01

The legal trade in narcotics

The Annual Report of the Permanent Central Opium Board to the Economic and Social Council on its work has been a perennial item on the agenda of both the Council and the Commission on Narcotics Drugs. The report on the Board's work in 1958 1 presents an over-all picture of the legal trade in narcotics throughout the world

1

Document E/OB /14, November 1958.

in 1957, derived from 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 this report follow. 2

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; for the report on 1956, see idem, vol. IX, No. 1; for the report on 1957, see idem, vol. X, No. 1.

TRENDS IN THE LICIT MOVEMENT OF NARCOTIC DRUGS IN 1957

Raw Materials

  1. Raw opium. During the twelve years (1946-1957) which followed the Second World War, the annual production of raw opium ranged between a minimum of 507 tons in 1949 and a maximum of 1,295 tons in 1953, the average being 867 tons. Annual production in the last four years remained below this average, ranging from 821 tons in 1955 to 714 tons in 1957. This trend is attributable to a sharp drop in production in Turkey and to the cessation of production in Iran after 1955.

    Raw opium production

     

    1953

    1954

    1955

    1956

    1957

     
    (Tons)
    India
    629 438 362 348 485
    Turkey
    321 70 222 277 45
    Iran
    227 144 95
    -
    -
    USSR
    92 103 109 105 147
    Other countries
    26 18 33 51 37
     
    _____
    ____
    ______
    _____
    ____
    TOTAL
    1,295 773 821 781 714

    On the other hand, opium requirements increased, following the ever growing demand for codeine: in 1954, 609 tons of opium were utilized in the manufacture of morphine (thereafter converted into codeine to the tune of about 90%), against 659 tons in 1955, 676 tons in 1956 and 885 tons in 1957. To determine the total amount of opium licitly utilized in the latter year, there should be added the 25 tons consumed in the form of medicinal preparations, and the amount used for quasi-medical consumption (34 tons in India and 14 tons in Pakistan) and non-medical consumption (28 tons in Thailand).

    Expressed as far as possible in terms of a standard consistency, the figures of opium production and utilization show that production has fallen short of demand after 1953. Stocks accordingly declined from 1,744 tons at the end of 1953 to approximately 950 tons at the end of 1957, which latter figure is roughly one year's requirements.

  2. Poppy straw. The information on poppy straw which the conventions require governments to supply to the Board refers only to the quantity utilized for the manufacture of morphine and to the quantity of morphine thus produced.

    The amount of morphine extracted from poppy straw reached a peak figure of 20 tons in 1954, but declined in 1955 to 18 tons, and in 1956 to 14 tons, rising again to 17 tons in 1957. Between 1954 and 1957, the decrease was greatest in the Federal Republic of Germany and in France. In Hungary, Poland and the Netherlands there was no decrease, and two countries, the USSR and Romania, began to manufacture morphine in this way in 1957.

    The average yield of morphine production from poppy straw fell from 0.19% to 0.15% between 1954 and 1956 and remained at the latter figure in2 1957.

  3. Coca leaves. In considering the trends of coca leaf production and consumption, it is to be remembered that most of the figures available under both these heads are rough estimates. Only twice in its history has the Board received production statistics for a given year from all the countries where, to its knowledge, production is licit. For each of these two years, 1954 and 1957, the figure was in the neighbourhood of 13,000 tons. The greater part was harvested in Peru (10,200 tons) and in Bolivia (2,700 tons); by comparison, the quantities produced in other countries - 140 tons in Colombia, 17 tons in Indonesia and 1 ton in the Republic of China - are negligible.

    The amounts harvested in South America are almost entirely used for non-medical consumption - that is, for chewing - either in the producing countries themselves or in one non-producing country, Argentina. According to the available data, this consumption in the last five years was as follows:

     

    1953

    1954

    1955

    1956

    1957

     
    (Tons)
    Peru
    9,134 9,250 9,319 9,452 9,954
    Bolivia
    ?
    2,764
    ?
    ?
    2,590
    Argentina
    213 129 155 14 152
    Colombia
    120 110 100 80 32

    The governments of these countries have declared their intention of progressively eliminating this habit. With regard to Argentina's exceptionally low consumption figure for 1956, the Government explained that coca leaves were imported in that year for medical purposes only. It is difficult to believe, however, that so traditional a consumption could diminish by 90% in a single year, and the conclusion seems inescapable that the Argentine consumers must in 1956 have obtained their supplies from sources not reflected in the Government's statistics.

    The amounts of coca leaves utilized in the world for medical purposes (the extraction of cocaine) have dropped from 623 tons in 1955 to 309 tons in 1956, and 248 tons in 1957 - i.e., for the latter year, to a figure corresponding to 2% of the annual crop. This decline is apparent in all manufacturing countries of any importance, and it will be discussed in greater detail below, under the headings "Crude cocaine" and "Cocaine ".

  4. Cannabis. As regards cannabis the only data available to the Board which lend themselves to comparative study are those relating to medical and quasi-medical consumption. It will be recalled that in 1952 the World Health Organization expressed the view that there was no justification for the medical use of cannabis preparations, 3 and in 1954 the Economic and Social Council invited governments to discontinue such use. 4 At that time, the consumption of cannabis in the 26 countries or territories where it occurred amounted to 862 kg, of which 357 kg was consumed in India alone. In 1957, the number of these countries or territories had declined to 21, and their consumption to 559 kg, India's share being 136 kg.

3

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

4

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

Manufactured Drugs

  1. Morphine. The volume of morphine production depends on the demand for codeine. In fact, 87% of the morphine manufactured is converted into codeine, 7% or 8% is converted into ethylmorphine and 1% into pholcodine, benzylmorphine, hydromorphone, diacetylmorphine, dihydromorphine and into substances which are not addiction-producing. Thus only a tiny fraction of the morphine manufactured is consumed as such, and this consumption is continually decreasing.

    The demand for codeine, as will be seen in section (c) below, increased considerably in 1957 and corresponding amounts of morphine had to be manufactured, the total rising to 109 tons, or 25% more than in 1956 and 48% more than in 1953. This is the first time that production has reached - and passed - the 100-ton mark. Almost all manufacturing countries contributed to the increase, the only exceptions being Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Spain and India, where production, which is in any case small, decreased or remained stationary, their combined output falling from approximately 7 tons in 1953 to 5 tons in 1957. It was in the following countries that production increased most markedly in absolute figures between 1953 and 1957: the United Kingdom (9.9-18.4 tons), the Federal Republic of Germany (5.6-11.6 tons), the USSR (95-14 tons), France (6-10 tons), Hungary (6.3-8.6 tons) and Japan (2.4-4.4 tons). In no other country did the increase exceed 2 tons.

  2. Diacetylmorphine. In 1957 three countries manufactured diacetylmorphine: the United Kingdom (47 kg), France (17 kg) and Belgium (11 kg). While total production in 1957 (75 kg) is above that of 1956 (60 kg) it is only half the figure for 1953. In Hungary production ceased during 1956 and all the diacetylmorphine available in that country was converted into nalorphine, a substance which is not regarded as addiction-producing. Manufacture of diacetylmorphine in France will presumably disappear when in due course the French Government fulfils its declared intention to prohibit its use.

    In 1957 seven countries (against 18 in 1953) declared a consumption amounting to 1 kg or more of this narcotic drug: the United Kingdom (52 kg), Belgium (10 kg), France (7 kg), Canada (6 kg), Australia (1 kg), Italy (1 kg) and Portugal (1 kg). In several of them consumption will cease on exhaustion of the stocks.

  3. Codeine. Apparently because of the world influenza epidemic, the increase in codeine demand was much steeper in 1957 than in previous years. From 1956 to 1957 consumption rose from 77 to 90 tons. The increase was about 3 tons in the USSR, 1.5 tons in France, 1.5 tons in the United States, 1 ton in Brazil, and 500 kg each in Canada, the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany.

    Production, which was more or less on a level with demand in 1955 and 1956, greatly exceeded it in 1957, reaching a figure of 97 tons. This trend probably reflects a general concern to build up stocks, which at the end of 1957 were sufficient to cover consumption for five months only.

  4. Ethylmorphine. Consumption of ethylmorphine rose from 5.6 tons in 1955 to 7.1 tons in 1957. Sixty-five per cent of the increase is due to the greater use of this drug in France, whose requirements amount to one-third of world consumption.

    Production, after falling off slightly from 1955 to 1956 (from 5.9 tons to 5.5 tons), rose in 1957 to 7.4 tons, the highest figure ever recorded. Here again, France's increased production (1.7 ton in 1956 as against 2.7 tons in 1957) was a decisive factor.

  5. Other derivatives of opium alkaloids. The consumption of these narcotic drugs is spread over a large number of countries and territories and in the majority of them does not reach 1 kg. Production, on the other hand, is concentrated in a few countries and thus affords a more direct indication of the trend of demand. World production is therefore shown in the following table: only those narcotic drugs the declared production of which reached 1 kg. in at least one country are mentioned.

     

    1953

    1954

    1955

    1956

    1957

     
    (Kilogrammes)
    Dihydrocodeine
    592 1,040 1,039 1528 1,963
    Hydrocodone
    704 741 761 1,011 1,301
    Pholcodine
    206 526 561 861 948
    Oxycodone
    247 287 430 397 344
    Thebacon
    90 147 103 133 140
    Benzylmorphine
    70 64 46
    ---
    89
    Hydromorphone
    108 113 125 20 88
    Acetyldihydrocodeine
    1 4 5 3 6
    Dihydromorphine
    _
    _
    31 49
    _

    Incomplete.

  6. Crude cocaine. Crude cocaine is merely an intermediate stage in the manufacture of cocaine, except in Peru where it is produced for export. In that country, production had ceased for several years and was resumed in 1954; it continued in 1955 and 1956 and was interrupted in 1957. Of a total of 945 kg produced in that period, 449 kg were exported.

  7. Cocaine. Cocaine consumption, which amounted to 1,976 kg in 1954, began to decrease in 1955. The trend became more and more marked until 1957, when consumption was only 1,619 kg. Although this is a general phenomenon the most noteworthy decreases in absolute figures were in the USSR, Japan and the United States.

    Production, on the other hand, did not begin to fall till 1956, but then did so more appreciably than consumption, dropping from 2,593 kg in 1955 to 1,683 kg in 1956, and 1,039 kg in 1957. This slowing down of production was most pronounced in the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In 1957, the Federal Republic of Germany yielded first place among producers to the United States, which alone manufactured nearly half of the world output. In a few countries, however, production picked up again in 1957, but without returning to the 1955 level. This is true, in particular, of the Netherlands and France.

    World production having in these last two years fallen below the level of consumption, the balance had to be made up from stocks. Nevertheless, at the end of 1957, stocks were still large enough to cover requirements for about a year and a half.

  8. Synthetic narcotic drugs.

    Pethidine. Pethidine consumption has risen uninterruptedly since the drug was placed under international control, and reached 13 tons in 1955. Since then, the increase has been less marked, the figure for 1957 being 14 tons. Out of this total, 9 tons were consumed in the United States, as was the case also in 1956, and about one ton (1,131 kg, to be exact) in the United Kingdom, a figure which has varied little since 1954. The balance of 4 tons was shared between the other countries and territories of the world.

    Between 1955 and 1957, the annual production of pethidine remained between 14.5 and 14.8 tons. In 1957 the United States produced 9.6 tons, the United Kingdom 2.8 tons, and the Federal Republic of Germany 1.2 tons: and four countries - France, the Netherlands, Italy and the German Democratic Republic - produced between 100 kg and 500 kg each.

    Propoxyphene. This narcotic drug was brought under international control in December 1955, and was placed in group II of the drugs listed in the 1931 Convention - that is to say, the same group as codeine. The only figures available to the Board were supplied by the United States: they relate to the production in 1957 and the stock at the end of the year of the dextro-rotatory form of this substance: 7,470 kg and 4,140 kg respectively.

    Normethadone. The Federal Republic of Germany, the largest producer and consumer of this drug, has supplied its production and export figures only in respect of 1956, these being 1,571 kg and 329 kg respectively. In 1957 Italy, the German Democratic Republic and Finland also produced normethadone, though in small quantities: 19 kg, 13 kg and 6 kg respectively.

    Trimeperidine.This narcotic drug, which was placed under international control at the end of 1957, has been manufactured for several years in the Soviet Union, where it is known under the name " Promedol ". This country has provided the following figures for 1957: production 1,845 kg, consumption 1,245 kg, and stock at end of year 600 kg.

    Methadone.Consumption fell from 570 kg in 1954 to 464 kg in 1956, and remained at that level in 1957. These fluctuations merely reflect variations in the consumption of the largest consumer - the United States - where it declined from 228 kg to 141 kg over the same period. A downward trend is also noticeable in the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany, which are the second and third largest consumer countries.

    Production reached its peak in 1954 (608 kg): in the two following years it declined appreciably, to 468 kg in 1955 and 290 kg in 1956. Both these figures were below those of consumption, and this fact doubtless accounts for the increase in production in 1957 to 573 kg.

    Ketobemidone. In 1954, the Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution urging governments to prohibit the manufacture, import and export of ketobemidone, 5 but the two producing countries, Denmark and Switzerland, have not followed this recommendation.

     

    1953

    1954

    1955

    1956

    1957

    Production
    (Kilogrammes)
    Denmark
    35 24 40 35 31
    Switzerland
    65  
    -
    12 31
     
    ___
    ___
    ___
    ___
    ___
    TOTAL ...
    100 24 40 47 62

    During the period 1954-1957, the following countries declared a ketobemidone consumption of at least 1 kg.

    Countries (in decreasing order of consumption in 1957)

    1954

    1955

    1956

    1957

    Denmark
    20 23 19 32
    Federal Republic of Germany
    23 21 21 21
    Sweden
    6 11 10 10
    Norway
    2 3 4 5
    Italy
    4 3 4 4
    Switzerland
    4 4 4 4
    Belgium
    1 2 2 1
    Portugal
    1 1
    -
    1
    Finland
    1
    -
    2
    -
    Argentina
    2
    -
    -
    -
     
    -
    -
    -
    -
    Total
    64 68 66 78

    These figures indicate that, with a few exceptions, the consumer countries also have not followed the Council's recommendation.

    Dextromoramide. This narcotic drug was brought under international control in May 1957. Belgium and the Netherlands, the only countries where, to the Board's knowledge, this drug is manufactured, have not declared the quantities produced in 1957: Belgium, however, did declare the exports effected since the beginning of the second quarter. Although many of the importing countries have not yet shown this drug in their return it is already clear that it has rapidly come into favour. 5

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

    Other synthetic narcotic drugs. Apart from the seven synthetic narcotic drugs dealt with in the preceding paragraphs, thirty others are at present under international control. The figures supplied to the Board show that none of them is yet manufactured in large quantity or consumed in many countries. It should, however, be noted that a certain number of these drugs have been under control for only a short period, so that no statistics concerning them are yet available to the Board. The amounts manufactured are shown below, provided that they reached 1 kg in at least one country. The date on which each of these drugs was brought under control is given in parentheses.

 

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

 
(Kilogrammes)
Anileridine (December 1956)
    187 123  
Alphaprodine (March 1951)
24 52 45 51 55
Levorphanol (April 1951)
11 10 54 14 55
Phenadoxone (March 1951)
41 38 41 32 14
Diethylthiambutene (December 1955)
      15 10

(Continued)

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

 
(Kilogrammes)
Dioxaphetyl butyrate (December 1955)
      5 3
Racemorphan (April 1951)
31*
2
-
-
-
Isomethadone (March 1951)
24
-
-
-
-
Properidine (November 1954)
    11
-
-

The following table shows the amounts consumed, provided that they reached 1 kg in at least one country or territory: the number of these countries or territories is given in parentheses.

 

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

 
(Kilogrammes)
Anileridine
      15 (1) 45 (1)
Alphaprodine
21 (1) 37 (2) 42 (2) 40 (2) 41 (2)
Phenadoxone
50 (5) 47 (5) 42 (3) 27 (3) 23 (2)
Levorphanol
23 * (5)
24 (5) 26 (5) 16 (4) 20 (5)
Diethylthiambutene
    3 (1) 5 (1) 5 (1)
Properidine
  7 (1) 6 (1) 9 (1) 4 (2)
Dimethylthiambutene **
  3 (1) 4 (1) 3 (1) 2 (1)
Dioxaphetyl butyrate
      2 (1) 1 (1)
Betaprodine+
3 (1)
-
8 (1) 8 (1)
-
Dipipanone++
    1 (1) 1 (1)
-
Isomethadone
18 (1) 2 (1)
-
-
-

Incomplete.

Under control since November 1953.

+ Under control since March 1951.

++ Under control since November 1954.

SHORTCOMINGS IN NATIONAL CONTROL

The Board has more than once expressed the view that the system of control instituted by the Conventions of 1925 and 1931 has virtually eliminated the risk of diversion of narcotic drugs from the licit to the illicit market, and that to this extent these two conventions could be said to have achieved their purpose.

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that drugs liable to produce addiction are put on the market, and for a time escape from the controls contemplated by the conventions. This has recently been the case with three substances: acetylethylmorphine, dextromoramide and normethadone.

Acetylethylmorphine

In 1953 and again in 1956, this drug was manufactured in Italy and utilized as an ingredient in a preparation dispensed without medical prescription. Acetylethylmorphine is a morphine derivative not specifically listed in the 1931 Convention; in the Board's opinion, the Italian Government should therefore have taken immediate steps to obtain a ruling under article 11 of the Convention as to whether it should be placed under international control. Even though the quantities manufactured were small, it is regrettable that this action was not taken.

Dextromoramide

This drug, which appears at the present time under a number of designations (R.875, Jetrium, Palfium, Pyrrolamidol) is recognized as being more dangerous than morphine. It was brought under international control in virtue of the 1948 Protocol by a notification issued by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 15 May 1957; and upon receipt of this notification all countries bound by that Protocol were under obligation to apply to this drug the provisions of the 1931 Convention.

So far as the Board is aware, only two countries, Belgium and the Netherlands, manufacture dextromoramide; and these countries, both of which are parties to the 1948 Protocol, placed it under national control on 3 February and 15 March 1958 respectively - that is to say, at least eight months after receipt of the Secretary-General's notification. Because of this delay and because, moreover, many importing countries also failed to act immediately on the notification, certain amounts of dextromoramide were throughout this period free to move without the safeguards which the conventions seek to apply to the movement of drugs of this character.

Normethadone

This drug, which is regarded as being no less dangerous than morphine, is utilized in the compounding of anti-tussive preparations marketed under the names Taurocolo, Ticarda, etc. It was brought under international control from 23 November 1954, the date of the relevant notification by the Secretary-General. The Federal Republic of Germany is the chief manufacturer. Not being a party to the 1948 Protocol, this country was not bound to bring the drug under national control, nor has it yet felt moved to do so.

Accordingly the manufacturer of the drug has been at liberty to export it, mainly in the form of Ticarda, without the authority of import certificates issued by the governments of the importing countries. Learning that Ticarda was in fact being widely distributed, the Board wrote in 1957 to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and was informed that 1,571 kg of normethadone had been manufactured, and 329 kg exported in 1956. The Board later endeavoured to obtain the figures for 1957, but without success.

According to the information supplied for 1956 by the Federal Republic of Germany, normethadone or Ticarda was exported that year to no fewer than 56 countries and non-metropolitan territories. Yet, 48 of them had not mentioned the drug either in their estimates or in their statistics. The Board therefore reminded the governments concerned that the provisions of the 1931 Convention had become applicable to normethadone and its preparations from November 1954. Several of these governments replied that the transactions had taken place without their knowledge.

The Board feels that the unfortunate state of affairs revealed in the preceding paragraphs is attributable not to defects or weaknesses in the present international conventions, but rather to the failure of governments to apply their provisions with due despatch. The Board strongly recommends that when any new product for which its inventors claim powerful analgesic or anti-tussive properties is about to be marketed, the government of the country in which it is manufactured should at once examine the possibility of subjecting it provisionally to the control measures prescribed in the 1925 and 1931 Conventions, until the World Health Organization has pronounced upon its liability to produce addiction. The guiding principle in all such cases should surely be that commercial interests must yield to considerations of public health.

With regard particularly to normethadone, the Board's chief aim has been to draw the attention of as many governments as possible to the dangerous situation caused by the absence of control over exports from the Federal Republic of Germany.