UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems, New Delhi, 1967

Sections

Item 1. The opium poppy, its cultivation and harvesting
Item 2. Opium and its processing 3
Item 3. Other products of the opium poppy; poppy straw, poppy seed and alkaloids obtained either from opium or poppy straw 4
Item 4. National control measures for licit opium production
Item 5. International control of opium
Item 6. International legal problems related to opium
Item 7. Illicit trafficking in opium and products obtained therefrom
Item 8. Opium consumption
Item 9. Technical co-operation 7

Details

Pages: 15 to 19
Creation Date: 1968/01/01

UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems, New Delhi, 1967

The report of the UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems which met in New Delhi in October last year has now been distributed to participants.

The following countries took part in the Group: Afghanistan, Australia, Burma, Ceylon, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, USSR, USA, Republic of Viet-Nam and Yugoslavia. In effect the membership covered countries which belong to the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East; Turkey and Yugoslavia were invited because of their experience in opium production, and Hungary as the country which has the longest experience in the extraction of morphine from poppy straw. The Group met as a project under the UN technical assistance programme in the field of narcotic drugs. [ 1] The World Health Organization and the Permanent Central Narcotics Board, [ 2] as well as the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/INTERPOL), were also represented. The session of the Consultative Group was opened by the Indian Minister of State for Finance, Shri K. C. Pant. The Narcotics Commissioner to the Government of India, Shri B. S. Chawla, was unanimously elected President, and Mr. Selman AƧba, Director of the Opium Section of the Office of Soil Products, Government of Turkey, Istanbul, was unanimously elected Vice-President.

The following conclusions and recommendations, adopted by the Consultative Group on the various points on its agenda, are extracted from its report:

Item 1. The opium poppy, its cultivation and harvesting

Conclusions

  1. The Consultative Group noted that the processes associated with the cultivation of the opium poppy varied greatly among the countries concerned. The varieties of the poppy plant grown in different countries were often different, as also the agricultural techniques used.

  1. The Consultative Group came to the conclusion that these variations tended to affect the yield of opium obtained from a given acreage, and also had a bearing upon the morphine content of the opium harvested.

  2. The Consultative Group took account of the variations in yield of opium per hectare reported in various countries. On the basis of technical data that could be made available to it, the Group could not explain these variations. It observed that there did not appear to have been any exchange of information among producing countries as regards the agricultural techniques employed. These seemed to have been determined both by tradition and by the practical circumstances which obtained in each producing country.

Recommendations

  1. It recommended that the producing countries exchange information regarding the cultivation of opium poppy, directly or through the United Nations. Information made available to the United Nations Secretariat should be placed at the disposal of other countries.

  2. The Consultative Group recommended that independent research, possibly with the advice of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) be carried out in official agricultural experimental stations in the poppy producing countries. If such research were successfully concluded it might give reliable data on which to base the future policy of opium producing countries relating to such production.

Item 2. Opium and its processing [ 3]

Conclusions

  1. The Consultative Group observed that India and Turkey used well-tried methods for presenting their opium to the international market according to standards that the market required.

  1. The Consultative Group noted that the water content of opium might range from 20 % to 46 %. It was evident that the opium would begin to lose its moisture content in storage, and the weight would not give a correct picture of the product.

  2. The Consultative Group also noted that the initial morphine content of the opium harvest in the producing countries might vary from 7 % to 17 % which was a considerable range, and should not be ignored in any estimation of the medical and scientific requirements.

Recommendations

  1. The Consultative Group recommended that as regards the actual quantum of opium production whether for export or not, uniformity and comparability of data should be sought. To this end it requested the Division of Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations with the co-operation of the PCNB (which would be succeeded by the INCB under the Single Convention) to study the possibility of having producing countries state their production of opium, and the stocks held by them, in terms of anhydrous opium.

  2. It further recommended that the international bodies concerned study whether there was a possibility of expressing opium availability also in terms of morphine content.

  3. It requested the Division of Narcotic Drugs to make a comparative study and recommend a single method for determining the morphine content of opium. Such a study should take account of the International Pharmacopoeia, and the work being done for the development of the European Pharmacopoeia.

  4. In line with the above recommendations the Consultative Group further expressed the wish that the Division of Narcotic Drugs prepare a document which might be submitted to the Commission of Narcotic Drugs and the Permanent Central Narcotics Board on the two subjects raised here above:

  1. Reporting in terms of anhydrous opium, and

  2. The possibilities for arriving at a uniform method for morphine determination in raw opium.

Item 3. Other products of the opium poppy; poppy straw, poppy seed and alkaloids obtained either from opium or poppy straw [ 4]

The Consultative Group discussed this point of the agenda with particular reference to the present place of poppy straw as the raw material for the extraction of morphine comparing it with that of opium as the raw material. In the discussion the questions raised included the following:

The comparative yields of morphine, using either opium or poppy straw as the raw material, per hectare; the comparative acreages that would have to be sown to the poppy to obtain poppy straw or opium; morphine content and yields from lanced and unlanced poppy capsules including whether the unlanced capsules came from the opium poppy or the poppy cultivated for poppy seeds; the technology for extraction of concentrate from poppy straw; the yields of morphine obtained in the several countries using the poppy straw process; and the likely developments in this whole field of meeting the requirements for alkaloids from one source or the other.

The Consultative Group noted that data on these complex questions were not conclusive and experience among the different countries concerned seemed to be at variance.

In these circumstances the Consultative Group was unable to adopt agreed conclusions and recommendations with respect to this item of the agenda except that it wished that the Secretariat of the United Nations should keep this whole field under constant review. It understood that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was interested in bringing some clarity to the matter and it hoped that the results of the studies being made at the Commission's request would be made available to the Governments concerned.

Item 4. National control measures for licit opium production

Conclusion

The Consultative Group was greatly impressed by the range and breadth of the measures that India had taken in developing a system of control over opium production.

Recommendations

  1. The Consultative Group recommended that producing countries make a close study of the Indian

UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems, New Delhi, 1967 17 system of control on opium production and to the extent permitted by their political and economic situation, they might attempt to apply a system of control which would be equally efficacious.

  1. While the system of control itself should be so tight as to prevent leakages from occurring, penalties should be sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent.

Item 5. International control of opium

Conclusions

  1. The formal recognition of the abuse of narcotic drugs as an international problem dates from the meeting of the International Opium Commission in Shanghai, in 1909, which has also recognized that the solution of that problem transcended the capacity of single Governments and called for effective international co-operation.

  2. In the course of half a century this international co-operation manifested itself in the successive adoption of nine international treaties and culminated in the adoption of the Single Convention of 1961 embodying, inter alia, the important provisions of the preceding conventions that had stood the test of time and were generally acceptable. The entry into force of that Convention in 1964 is a landmark in the history of multinational efforts of the last 60 years to establish effective international control of narcotic drugs built upon the solid basis of efficient national narcotics administration. These efforts, which had begun even before the establishment of the League of Nations, were continued very successfully under the auspices of the League of Nations guided by the provisions of Article 23 ( c) of the League's Covenant and later by the United Nations, under the 1946 Protocol.

  3. A comprehensive system of control exists now not only in respect of manufactured drugs but also with regard to the cultivation of the opium poppy as well as of the coca bush and the cannabis plant. The non-medical use of all narcotic drugs is now prohibited, and so is the cultivation of the opium poppy for the production of opium for non-medical purposes.

  4. The possession of all narcotic drugs under international control is now limited exclusively to medical and scientific purposes.

  5. The system of import certificate and export authorizations is now extended to poppy straw.

  6. The control of the cultivation of plants grown for the purpose of producing narcotic drugs has been tightened. The 1961 Convention took over the relevant main provisions of the 1953 Protocol which, as is known, were largely inspired by the experience gained in India. Government agencies will now administer the national control system. Under that system the poppy grown

for the production of opium may be grown only by licensed farmers and only in areas and on plots of land designated by the Government agency which should have the exclusive right to buy all opium produced in the country, to export and import and maintain it in stocks.

  1. It was emphasized that the Convention discourages any commencement of or increase in production of opium, whether for domestic consumption or for export, if it would result in or contribute to over-production of opium in the world.

Recommendation

The Consultative Group noted that the countries of nine Participants at its meeting had not yet become Parties to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, though it understood that in some cases the procedures for ratification were in train. It recommended that all the countries concerned take steps to ratify or adhere to the Single Convention as early as possible.

Item 6. International legal problems related to opium

Conclusion

The Consultative Group observed the possibility of there being differences of view as regards the applicability of the 1953 Protocol as between Parties to it who are also Parties to the 1961 Convention. It considered that this situation should be clarified.

Recommendation

The Consultative Group recommended that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs formally request the Secretary-General to give an opinion [ 5] on the following two questions:

  1. Does Article 44 of the Single Convention by itself replace as between Parties to it the provisions of the instruments which it replaces?

  2. Do the obligations of those instruments respectively continue as between Parties to them who are not Parties to the Single Convention and Parties who are also Parties to the Single Convention?

Item 7. Illicit trafficking in opium and products obtained therefrom

Conclusions

  1. The Consultative Group examined the situation as regard the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs in Asia.

Two main currents of the illicit traffic existed: one was directed at Iran and originated from neighbouring countries; the other originated in the area situated on the borders of Burma, Thailand, Laos and mainland China. This latter traffic moved towards Hong Kong and other countries of South-east Asia.

  1. The opium which supplied this illicit traffic came either from leakages out of licit cultivation or from illicit or tolerated cultivation. As regards the first, the producing countries had emphasized their desire to continue to control tightly their licit production. The Group considered that in conjunction with the efforts made by the producing countries, the consuming countries to which illicit traffic in narcotic drugs converges, should take all measures, including health education, against drug abuse in order to reduce the demand.

  2. As regards the second source, the Consultative Group considered that this problem required to be examined on a comprehensive basis. A radical improvement in economic and social conditions and the achievement of effective administrative control over the regions concerned were factors essential to obtaining a change in the existing situation.

Recommendations

  1. The fight against the illicit traffic should be energetically prosecuted on the national plane by all the law enforcing agencies. This duty fell not only upon units or formations specialized in narcotics work, but should be equally considered the responsibility of all enforcement agencies in each country.

  2. Training programmes for the officials concerned with this work should be drawn up keeping the above criterion in mind. In every case, the police force should feel deeply responsible as regards the prevention of narcotic offences, and, in general, it should be given duties with respect thereto.

  3. Co-ordination of the fight against the illicit traffic must he assured at the national level.

  4. The deliberations of the Consultative Group emphasized the over-riding necessity to have the closest possible international co-operation among enforcement agencies engaged in the entire narcotics campaign. The Group was convinced that this co-operation must be permanent, direct and be carried out clearly on an official basis.

  5. The Consultative Group recommended that countries concerned follow the principles and methods of ICPO/INTERPOL and make use of its facilities in the fight against the illicit traffic. It expressed the hope that ICPO, with the co-operation of the countries concerned, would succeed in developing a telecommunications network which would be of a great utility in the fight against the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

Item 8. Opium consumption

The representative of the World Health Organization based his statement on the concept of the interacting factors: agent (drug) - host (drug ,dependent individual) -environment (milieu). He explained the advantages of using the term drug dependence instead of addiction or habituation. The Group considered that in view of the development of new substances, the term drug dependence of morphine-type, cannabis-type, cocaine-type, barbiturate-type etc. was indeed more appropriate. With regards to drug dependence of the morphine type, which was the main problem in the area of concern to the Group, it was noted that its medical treatment was relatively simple and consisted of abrupt or gradual withdrawal with the aid of substitutes and other supportive therapy, if necessary. Far more difficult was the problem of rehabilitation and reintegration into society as this required continuous cooperation of various disciplines as set out in detail in the report of a recent World Health Organization Expert Committee. [ 6]

In the actual drug dependence pattern of any country, preventive measures were particularly important. A fuller effort should be made for mass education that would change the attitude of the public towards the consumption of drugs.

With regard to treatment, a distinction should be made between the large mass of occasional users and those that are afflicted with a deep-going and long-lasting dependence on opium or opiates. The former group was easily amenable to treatment while treatment of the latter was a lengthy and difficult process. The Group concluded that in treatment programmes due account should be taken of this distinction.

The Group's attention was drawn to the 14th report of the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Mental Health, and it fully endorsed the recommendations made therein.

Several members gave information on the particular situation in their respective countries, from which it appeared that while opium dependence was regressing there appeared to be increasing abuse of heroin. The Group also noted the change from one type of dependence to another, e.g., from opium to barbiturates or alcohol.

Recommendations

  1. Treatment programmes should take account of all aspects, namely medical, psychological, economic, social and cultural. In planning treatment and rehabilitation programmes a distinction should be made between occasional users and those with deep-rooted dependence.

  1. Governments should be on their guard against the increase or appearance of heroin addiction as well as the possibilities of change from one substance of dependence to another.

  2. Governments should take particular note of the recommendations made in the 14th Report of the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Mental Health.

  3. Special attention should be given to the education of the public on the dangers of drug dependence and drug abuse. There should be systematic teaching on all aspects of the question, where appropriate.

  4. Full use should be made of the assistance available from the World Health Organization and other international bodies so that co-ordinated and up-to-date measures might be taken by all Governments.

Item 9. Technical co-operation 7

Conclusion

The Group concluded that technical co-operation in narcotics control had proved useful. It considered that fuller use should be made by countries of the facilities of technical co-operation provided by the United Nations, the specialized agencies and ICPO/INTERPOL. For this purpose it hoped that more funds would be available to the international bodies for technical co-operation in narcotics control.

1

According to the rules governing this programme, the developed countries who participated did so at their own cost.

2

Since replaced by the International Narcotics Control Board established under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.

3

Note by the Secretariat: At the twenty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the representative of WHO stated that his organization was in the process of developing a reliable method for determining the morphine content of opium. A WHO consultant was working on the problem and it was hoped that a method being ,developed could be included in the International Pharmacopoeia, and thus obtain general acceptance (Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Report of the twenty-second session (8 to 26 January 1968), document E/4455).

4

Note by the Secretariat: The Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its twenty-second session had before it a working paper on the poppy straw process for the extraction of morphine (document E/CN.7/508/Add. 1/Rev. 1). The Commission expressed apprecia tion for this comprehensive and balanced study made by the Secretariat of the many complicated factors involved in morphine extraction from one raw material or the other. The Commission asked the Secretary-General to make available to it the report of the Consultative Group on Opium Problems held in New Delhi, and agreed to consider the subject again at the twenty-third session. By that time the Secretariat paper could be revised in the light of the data presented to the Consultative Group so as to include new information," but without disturbing the objective presentation of technical processes, choice of which was essentially for decision by each producing country concerned ". (Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Report of the twenty-second session E/4455, paragraphs 265-279.)

5

Note by the Secretariat: The legal opinion on the two points requested of the Secretary-General is found in Chapter VI of the Report to which these recommendations relate.

6

World Health Organization Techn. Rep. Ser. 1964, 363.

7

Note by the Secretariat: At its twenty-second session in January 1968, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs adopted a resolution requesting the Economic and Social Council to review existing financial arrangements for technical co-operation in narcotics control, and to recommend such additional appropriations as it may consider necessary (resolution 7 (XXII)) (Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Report of the twenty-second session, document E/4455, paragraph 364).