The work of the Permanent Central Opium Board in 1959


Raw materials
Manufactured drugs


Pages: 37 to 38
Creation Date: 1960/01/01

The work of the Permanent Central Opium Board in 1959

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 Narcotic Drugs. The report on the Board's work in 1959 1 presents an over-all picture of the legal trade in narcotics throughout the world in 1958, 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 the chapter of this report entitled: " Trends in the licit movement of narcotic drugs in 1958 " follow.

Raw materials

Raw Opium. - The demand for opium for medical purposes almost doubled between 1948 and 1958, whereas licit consumption for quasi-medical and non-medical purposes fell by five-sixths. In 1948, this consumption absorbed over one-third (270 tons) of the total amount of opium used for licit purposes (740 tons); in 1958, it dropped to 46 tons and accounted for no more than one-twentieth of the total, which rose to 944 tons.

Opium is above all the raw material of codeine, which is the most widely used of its derivatives, so that the two substances follow a similar trend. Thus, the fact that the demand for opium for medical purposes increased from 465 tons in 1948 to 898 tons in 1958 was due to the continuous rise in the consumption of codeine. As regards licit quasi-medical and non-medical consumption the decline was due to the Government of India's decision gradually to curtail such consumption with a view to total elimination in 1959. Opium smoking was licit in Thailand in 1958, and 19 tons of raw opium were utilized for this purpose during that year.

In 1958 India contributed more than two-thirds (657 tons) of the world production of opium (939 tons). The remainder was shared by Turkey (162 tons), the USSK (93 tons) and four other countries, Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Japan and Bulgaria, with a total of 27 tons. As compared with 1948, production in 1958 almost doubled in India and increased by one-quarter in the USSR, whereas it fell by more than one-half in Turkey. It will be remembered that production in Iran ceased in 1955.

The figures for production and use of opium, expressed in terms of a common moisture content, show a shortfall in production since 1954, the difference between the two totals being, however, smaller in 1958 than in 1957. In consequence, stocks which at the beginning of 1954 were 1,744 tons fell by the end of 1957 to 948 tons and by the end of 1958 to about 840 tons, or nine months' requirements.

Document E/OB/15, November 1959.

Poppy straw. - In 1958, one-fifth (i.e., 22 tons) of the morphine produced was extracted from poppy straw. The total for 1958 thus exceeds the previous peak figure reached in 1954, which was 20 tons, or one-fourth of the total production of morphine.

During the period 1954-1958, the decrease in the manufacture of morphine by this process in the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Czechoslovakia was more than balanced by an increase in the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and the German Democratic Republic, which have long been using it, and in the USSR and Romania, where it was introduced in 1957.

Coca leaves. - None of the three main coca-leaf producing and consuming countries, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, have supplied the Board with the relevant statistics for 1958. Their reported total production amounted to 13,000 tons in 1954 and again in 1957. By comparison, the quantity harvested in the other two known producing countries, Indonesia and the Republic of China, is negligible, amounting respectively to only 8 tons and 1.5 tons in 1958.

Medical requirements of coca leaves - that is to say, their use in the licit manufacture of cocaine - fell from 588 tons in 1954 to 248 tons in 1957 and 205 tons in 1958. In 1957 they represented only 2 per cent of licit non-medical consumption, and the proportion must be even smaller in 1958.

According to information supplied by the governments concerned, the following quantities of coca leaves were licitly consumed for non-medical purposes, that is to say, were chewed during the period 1954 to 1958:







9 250 9 319 9 450 9 954
2 764
2 590
129 155 14 152 80
110 100 80 32

Cannabis. - The medical and quasi-medical use of cannabis is very small and has diminished from 862 kg in 1954 to 559 kg in 1957. The reduction in 1958 cannot be computed since India, which has the largest consumption (136 kg in 1957), has not yet furnished the relevant statistics.

Manufactured drugs

Morphine. - The appreciable rise in morphine production which was observed between 1956 and 1957, from 87 to 109 tons, slowed down in 1958, the total for that year exceeding that for 1957 by only 3 tons. This merely reflects the trend in the conversion of morphine into other drugs, chiefly codeine: 85 tons in 1956, 103 tons in 1957 and 105 tons in 1958. In 1957 as in 1958, the figures for both production and conversion are double those for 1948. On the other hand, the consumption of morphine as such (about 4 tons in 1958 as against 6 tons in 1948) is on the decline.

Although production hardly varied from 1957 to 1958 it nevertheless fell by 3.4 tons in three of the five countries producing 10 or more tons of morphine each per year, namely, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, a reduction which was offset by an equivalent increase in the other two countries, the USSR and the Federal Republic of Germany. In all these countries variations in production merely reflect changes in the demand for drugs manufactured from morphine.

Diacetylmorphine. - The position with regard to this drug hardly changed in 1958, except that none was manufactured in France. Production continued in the United Kingdom (57 kg) and in Belgium (11 kg) and was resumed in the Netherlands (2 kg).

In the United Kingdom 48 kg of diacetylmorphine were consumed in 1958 and 20 kg were used for manufacturing nalorphine, a non-addiction-producing substance. In Belgium all but 1 kg of the diacetylmorphine produced was consumed in the country; in the Netherlands it was added to stock. This drug has practically vanished from the international trade, so that consuming countries which do not manufacture it have had to draw on their stocks. Their consumption figures in 1958, where these amounted to 1 kg or more, were: 4 kg in France, 3 kg in Canada, 2 kg in Portugal, 1 kg each in Australia, Italy and Uruguay.

Codeine. - From 1956 to 1957 codeine consumption underwent an exceptional increase (from 77 to 90 tons), which was attributed to the worldwide influenza epidemic. The final total for 1958 will approach that for 1957. Manufacture more than kept pace with this increase, having risen from 80 tons in 1956 to 97 tons in 1957 and to 100 tons in 1958. Excess production was added to stock.

Ethylmorphine. - Consumption which rose from 6.2 tons in 1956 to 7.1 tons in 1957, fell back to 6.4 tons in 1958, whereas the quantities manufactured were 5.5 tons, 7.4 tons and 7.8 tons respectively.

Other derivatives of opium alkaloids. - Except for hydromorphone and dihydromorphine, the demand for all these narcotic drugs has risen appreciably since 1954. In 1958 the following quantities were produced: Dihydrocodeine 2,442 kg, Hydrocodone 1,432 kg, Pholcodine 1,215 kg, Oxycodone 464 kg, Thebacon 188 kg, Benzylmorphine 102 kg, Hydromorphone 94 kg, Dihydromorphine 22 kg, Acetyldihydrocodeine 6 kg, Nicomorphine 2 kg, Oxymorphone 1 kg.

Cocaine. - Cocaine consumption decreased by one-quarter in the past five years (from 2 tons in 1954 to 1.5 ton in 1958). Production shows a similar though less regular trend. In 1958 it was about the same as consumption.

Pethidine. - The annual consumption of pethidine has remained steady at between 13 and 14 tons since 1955, the United States share of the total varying between 8 and 9 tons. Between 1955 and 1957, annual production was nearly 15 tons; in 1958 it dropped to 13 tons.

Trimeperidine. - This narcotic drug is manufactured and consumed only in the USSR. 1,078 kg were produced in 1958.

Normethadone. - The Federal Republic of Germany is the largest consumer of this drug as well as the largest producer and exporter. (Last iuformation: 1,571 kg produced in 1956.)

Methadone. - The consumption of methadone has been declining from 570 kg in 1954 to 445 kg in 1958.

Racemoramide, dextromoramide and levomoramide. - In 1958 the Netherlands produced 457 kg of racemoramide of which 414 kg were used for manufacturing 147 kg of dextromoramide and 140 kg of levomoramide. In view of this apparendy low yield it must be presumed that the manufacturing process was not completed by the end of 1958. Three kilogrammes of dextromoramide were manufactured in Italy.

In 1958 the following countries reported a consumption of at least 1 kg of dextromoramide; France 57 kg, Belgium 13 kg, Argentina 12 kg, Sweden 11 kg, Spain 8 kg, Finland 4 kg, Netherlands 4 kg, Denmark, Italy and Switzerland 2 kg each.

Ketobemidone. - The over-all consumption of this drug shows no appreciable change: 74 kg were consumed in 1958.

Denmark and Switzerland are still the only producers. Denmark produced 32 kg and Switzerland 34 kg in 1958.

Other synthetic narcotic drugs. - Last year the 1957 statistics showed that none of these drugs was yet manufactured in large quantity or consumed in many countries; the figures for 1958 indicate that this conclusion remains valid except as regards anileridine. This drug is now being manufactured in quite large quantities, but it is consumed only in the United States and Canada (455 kg in 1958).


Narcotic drugs derived from opium retain their lead both as analgesics and as antitussives. As analgesics, however, their use shows a steady downward trend, while as antitussives it is moving steeply upward.

The use of synthetic narcotic drugs as analgesics has grown. Although it is not possible to follow the trends of synthetic antitussives it can be said that their use is negligible in comparison with that of antitussives derived from opium.