XIXth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs 37th session of the Economic and Social Council


The new narcotics treaties
Technical co-operation in narcotics control
Implementation of treaties and international control
Illicit traffic
The question of khat
Opium and opiates: Scientific research


Pages: 41 to 45
Creation Date: 1964/01/01

XIXth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs 37th session of the Economic and Social Council

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva for a short session of one week, from 4 to 9 May 1964, being one of two functional commissions which the Economic and Social Council last year determined should hold meetings during 1964, other similar bodies being asked to postpone their annual sessions because of the crowded pattern of conferences being held in Geneva and New York by the United Nations. The Commission was authorized to meet to attend to urgent business under the international narcotics treaties.

The Economic and Social Council held its 37th session, also in Geneva, from 13 July to 15 August 1964.

The Commission elected as officers: Chairman, Dr. J. F. Mabileau (France); First Vice-Chairman, Dr. I. VĂ©rtes (Hungary); Second Vice-Chairman, Mr. B. N. Banerji (India); Rapporteur, Mr. T. C. Green (United Kingdom).

The membership of the Commission at its XIXth session consisted of the following States: Brazil, Canada, China, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Ghana, Hungary, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, Yugoslavia.

A summary of the work of the Commission and of the Council under the latter's agenda item "International Control of Narcotic Drugs" is given below.

The new narcotics treaties

The Commission noted that the 1953 Opium Protocol was in force, and that the Single Convention of 1961 was likely to come into force at an early date. One of the important matters before it was to continue its consideration of the form according to which governments would submit annual reports on the control of narcotic drugs so that information required by the 1953 Protocol, and later by the Single Convention, would be included. The form currently in use complying with the requirements of the earlier treaties needed certain modifications, and the Commission noted that the revised form which it had adopted provisionally for reporting under the 1953 Protocol has been submitted to governments for comments, and that some comments had been received. The Commission observed that the draft form prepared for use under the Single Convention, when the latter came into force, had had incorporated in it modifications resulting from the implementation of the 1953 Protocol. It felt it more important to devote its time to preparations for the coming into force of the Single Convention, since this treaty would replace the 1953 Opium Protocol - together with the main earlier instruments - as among parties. The Commission took note of the comments of governments and decided that these comments, together with any additional observations that might be received on the subject, would be considered by it again at its 20th session, when it would take a final decision with respect to the reporting requirements under both new treaties.

The Commission was informed that 30 States had ratified or acceded to the Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs, 1961, out of the 40 required to bring the Convention into force. 1 It seemed probable that the new treaty would be in force before the Commission's 20th session. It noted that a very limited number of governments had commented upon the draft administrative guide for the application of the Single Convention at the government level. It decided to have this document circulated again to governments which, for any reason, might not have received it or not have replied, and also to the Permanent Central Opium Board and the World Health Organization, with a date-limit for comments to be received by the Secretariat by 30 October 1964. The Secretariat would then prepare a new draft for consideration at the next session. The Commission felt that the revised draft of the administrative guide should be short, simple and practical and should not overlap the area to be covered by the legal commentary upon the Convention, which it also wished to have prepared. The Commission learned that it had not been possible to recruit a suitable consultant to prepare this commentary, but it felt that work on it could be begun after the Convention had come into force and some experience of its actual working had been gained.

As of 16 September 1964, 38 States had ratified or acceded to the Single Convention.

The Commission noted that considerable progress had been made with the printing of the records of the Plenipotentiary Conference which had adopted the Single Convention of 1961 in New York. It asked that every effort should be made to expedite this work so that the records might reach governments in time for use in making their comments on the proposed Administrative Guide for the application of the treaty.

The Commission considered the changes in the schedules to the Single Convention proposed by the WHO Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs. The original schedules had been agreed upon at the Plenipotentiary Conference, which adopted the Single Convention in 1961. However, since there was a good prospect of the Convention coming into force, the Commission, having taken the advice of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, felt that it could act upon WHO's recommendations made under article 3.6 of the Convention. It considered the WHO recommendations and adopted eight with respect to schedule I, two with respect to schedule II, and one with respect to schedule III. This decision Of the Commission would be communicated by the Secretary-General to States, to the WHO and to the PCOB, in accordance with article 3.7 of the Convention, and the decision would become effective with respect to each State party to the Convention on the date it received the Secretary-General's communication. The parties would thereupon take such action as might be required. The Commission deferred its decision on certain other of the recommendations made by WHO, to its 20th session.

Technical co-operation in narcotics control

The Commission reviewed technical co-operation activities in the field of narcotics control which had been carried out during 1963/1964 under the specific programme established by the General Assembly in resolution 1395 (XIV) and under the Expanded Programme.

During 1963 the following fellowships in narcotics control were awarded: Greece (Cannabis research); Iran (Determination of origin of opium); Mexico (Enforcement and administration); Nigeria (Administration); Thailand (three fellowships, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, including administration); Turkey (Determination of origin of opium); United Arab Repub- lic (Enforcement). The services of an expert serving as adviser to the Narcotics Control Administration in Iran were continued.

The Commission learned that three main regional projects had been completed since its last meeting: (i) the United Nations Middle East and North Africa Technical Assistance Mission on Narcotics Control, 4 September to 12 October 1963, which was the second part of the project begun in 1962; this second mission held consultations with the governments of Algeria, Cyprus, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey; (ii) a seminar on Narcotics Control Problems of Developing Countries in Africa, held in Addis Ababa from 11 to 22 November 1963, with the participation of 16 countries and one non-self-governing territory in the region; and (iii) a Consultative Group on Narcotics Problems in Asia and the Far East which met in Tokyo from 3 to 12 February 1964, with the participation of 16 countries and two non-self-governing territories in the region, being attended also by observers from three other countries and several interested organizations.

The Commission was informed that in February/ March 1964 a preliminary survey of the Economic and Social Aspects of Opium Production and Consumption in Burma was carried out at the request of the Union Government of Burma as recommended by the Commission at its last session and endorsed by the Council in its resolution 962 B II (XXXVI). The survey had been undertaken by a team consisting of four persons, one from the United Nations Secretariat, one from WHO and two officials of the Union Government.

The Commission was informed of, and warmly supported, a request by the Government of Thailand for a survey of the opium-producing regions of Thailand, along the same lines as the Burma opium survey mission. The Commission recommended to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to consider the request of the Government of Thailand favourably, and drawing the attention of the Secretary-General to the fact that arrangements could be made for the conduct of a survey, if requested by the government concerned, to take the place of a contemplated project under normal reprogramming procedures of the Expanded Programme, or by assignment to category II for implementation when possible. The Council adopted this resolution on a survey of the economic and social requirements of the opium-producing regions in Thailand.

The Commission learned that, in accordance with the recommendation to the Council at its last session, which had been adopted by the latter in its resolution 962 B I (XXXVI), there was to be held at the end of 1964 a meeting of an Inter-American Consultative Group on Coca Leaf Problems, which would convene at La Paz at the invitation of the Government of Bolivia.

The Commission welcomed the outposting of officers from the Division of Narcotic Drugs, one to the Latin American region, who was stationed in Lima, Peru, and the other to south-east Asia, who was stationed in Bangkok, Thailand. The purpose of these outpostings was to facilitate regional co-operation in narcotics control with respect to the problems that were peculiar to the countries of each region.

Implementation of treaties and international control

Governments continued to comply with their obligations under the various narcotic treaties to supply information and reports. The total number of countries and territories for which annual reports for 1962 had been received by 30 April 1964 was 151. By the same date, 151 reports had been received for 1959; 156 for 1960; and 153 for 1961.

The Commission was informed that the Secretary General had communicated with governments who had failed to return copies of authorizations for the export of narcotic drugs issued by the exporting country. The replies from the governments concerned indicated that in most cases the action required had been taken.

There had been several new adherences to the various narcotics treaties as follows: 3 to the 1912 Convention; 4 to the 1925 Convention as amended; 3 to the 1953 Protocol; and 14 to the Single Convention.

During 1963, two new drugs, Fentanyl and Norpipanone, were placed under control. As of the end of January 1964, 88 basic narcotic drugs, including 59 synthetic drugs, were under international control.

Illicit traffic

The Commission's review of the situation of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs was not preceded at this session by a meeting of its Committee on Illicit Traffic. The Commission's study was based on documents prepared by the Secretary-General and by the International Criminal Police Organization.

The Commission concentrated on three aspects of the illicit traffic situation: the opium and opiates traffic in the Far East and the Middle East; the cannabis traffic, particularly in the Middle East; and the traffic in cocaine.

There had been no abatement in the heavy traffic in opium in the Far East and large seizures had been reported by Thailand, Singapore, Malaya and Hong Kong. Seizures of morphine base had increased considerably, and the Commission noted that the notorious "999" brand of morphine blocks had frequently been seized. A new development was the increased trafficking in opium from Singapore to Hong Kong. The illicit traffic of heroin from Bangkok to Hong Kong noticed last year was again confirmed. In the Middle East, large opium seizures had been reported by Iran, and morphine and heroin seizures had been made in several countries of this region.

The Commission noticed that the traffic in opium and opiates in the Far East was being supplied mainly by illicit opium production in the Burma-China-Laos Thailand border regions, and in the Middle East from opium production in Turkey. Information was submitted by the representative of Turkey, regarding the measures taken for the control of opium cultivation in accordance with the provisions of the 1953 Protocol and drawing attention to the necessity for close co-operation among countries in the region. The observer for Burma gave details of his government's policy on the control of opium cultivation in his country.

The heroin traffic was highly organized from the source areas to the countries where there was illicit consumption. As in previous years, Canada and the United States of America continued to be the target of much of the traffic in this drug. Nevertheless, the Commission observed that the use of heroin was spreading in the Far East and in the Middle East. Several clandestine manufacturing centres had been discovered in those regions, and the Commission again noted the tendency for such centres to be located close to the areas where opium supplies were available.

Traffic in cannabis was carried on in every region and in almost every country in the world, and domestic or internal trafficking in that drug could be more clearly distinguished from international or intercontinental trafficking. This did not mean that clandestine cultivation and local addict use might not exist in serious proportions in areas which were primary sources of illegally exported supplies. In Europe and Oceania the traffic was relatively small, but it had been increasing and was more and more pervasive. In the Far East there appeared to be little international traffic in cannabis. Considerable use was made of it in indigenous systems of medicine in the Indian-Pakistani sub-continent. In the Middle East, there appeared to be no abatement of the traffic in cannabis, particularly hashish, which originated mainly in Lebanon and spread to other parts of the region, with the United Arab Republic as the main target. The observer for Lebanon informed the Commission of the measures taken by his government to suppress the illicit traffic and clandestine cultiva- tion of cannabis, and to introduce substitute crops, such as tobacco.

The situation with respect to cocaine had worsened in recent years. Significant evidence had come to light as a result of seizures in 1962 and 1963, especially in Brazil, Mexico and the United States of America. Unfortunately, lack of reporting by a number of countries left gaps in the picture and authoritative estimates of the scale of the problem of coca leaf and cocaine were difficult to arrive at. Clandestine manufacture was undoubtedly able to thrive on the abundant supplies of coca leaf produced in Bolivia and Peru, as had been repeatedly stated in the Consultative Group on Coca leaf Problems in 1962 and in the Inter-American regional meetings held in Rio de Janeiro in 1960 and 1961.

Seizures of natural drug preparations were infrequent and the quantities involved were very small.

Seizures of synthetic drugs reported were also small, and most cases originated in diversions from licit or therapeutic sources.

It was understood that in view of the widespread and common use of acetic anhydride and acetyl chloride in many branches of industry, the establishment of a system of export controls for those products was of doubtful practicality in countries producing chemicals. Manufacturers could, however, be of great assistance to the national control authorities by keeping a scrupulous watch over the distribution of their products. To the extent that countries faced with the problem of illicit manufacture of heroin could place the importation and distribution of acetic anhydride under control, it seemed both reasonable and expedient for them to do so, especially if they were situated in or close to areas of opium cultivation.

The question of khat

At this session, the Commission received from the World Health Organization a report on the medical aspects of the habitual chewing of khat leaves which the Economic and Social Council had requested at its 26th session in 1957 (resolution 667 D (XXIV)). The WHO report stated that besides tannins in appreciable amounts, it had been possible to identify (+)-norpseudoephedrine (cathine) and a chemically and pharmacologically closely related substance, which disappeared when the plant was dried and was presumably a step in the biosynthesis of cathine.

The presence of this second, hitherto unrecognized, active principle accounted for the marked preference expressed by the chewers for fresh khat leaves as being more stimulating than dried ones. It also explained why khat consumption had become more widespread in a certain region, as the fresh leaves could now be made available by means of modern transport, particularly the aeroplane, in regions distant from the production areas. Both active principles were amphetamine-like in structure and pharmacodynamics. Their efforts were somewhat less potent than those produced by equivalent amounts of, for example, methamphetamine.

The WHO Expert Committee had concluded that the problems connected with khat and with the amphetamines should be considered in the same light. The Expert Committee had also fully realized that the social and economic consequences of the khat habit needed special attention.

In the light of its discussion, the Commission recommended to thc Economic and Social Council a resolution which the latter adopted as resolution 1025 B (XXXVII). The resolution noted that "medical and social problems connected with the habitual and excessive chewing of khat leaves are confined at present to a limited number of countries in one geographic area"; and it drew the attention of the governments of countries concerned to the WHO report "for any action they may consider necessary".

Opium and opiates: Scientific research

The Commission was informed that in the past year international collaboration in this field had been considerably broadened and strengthened. Scientists from many countries had contributed to the research. The work of the United Nations laboratory had continued with the effort being concentrated, as in the previous year, on the development and application of a simple, rapid and easily reproducible method for the determination of the origin of opium and in particular on the methods of colour reactions and direct absorption spectrophotometry. No further modifications or changes had been made in these methods during the past year. The laboratory had analysed many samples of seized opium submitted by governments for the determination of origin and in approximately two-thirds of these cases it had been possible to indicate the geographical origin of the seized opium. The laboratory's inability to make positive findings in the remaining cases was due to the lack of authenticated samples from certain regions. However, authenticated samples of illicit production requested in Commission resolution 3 (XVII) had been received from Afghanistan, Burma, Korea, Laos and Mexico, and the response to this resolution could be considered satisfactory.

The Commission was informed that the laboratory had continued its research on methods for the identification of cannabis and had carried out preliminary work on the application of infra-red and fluorescence techniques to the study of narcotic substances.

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In view of the short duration of the session, certain items did not figure on the Commission's agenda, such as Abuse of Drugs (Drug Addiction), the Question of the Coca Leaf, the Question of Cannabis, Other Substances (barbiturates, tranquillizers, amphetamines and synthetic narcotic drugs).

The Commission was interested in the opinion voiced by the WHO Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs that the present terms "drug addiction" and "drug habituation" be replaced by the single term "drug dependence". The new term "drug dependence" should be used with the addition of reference to the type of drug involved (such as morphine-, barbiturate-, cocaine-, amphetamine-, cannabis-type).

Some delegations foresaw certain difficulties in adopting the new definition since the words "drug addicts" or "drug addiction" were entrenched in current legislation and everyday use. The Commission decided to postpone the question of new terminology to its next session.


Volume XVI, No. 2

In the article entitled "Trial and failure of the ambulatory treatment of (opiate) drug addiction in the United States" by Malachi L. Harney, on

Page 29: Right-hand column, line No. 3, instead of "opium", read"odium";

Page 37: In the table in the left-hand column, the figure "1960" given for the left column of figures should read"1920";

Page 39: Left-hand column, line No. 3, after the word "opiate", insert the word "intake".