14 February 2017 - Recently, UNODC launched the first Afghanistan Synthetic Drugs Assessment report. The survey draws attention to the presence of synthetic drugs in Afghanistan alongside the continued dominant presence of an illicit opiate market. The main objective of this report is to offer some initial insights into the extent of synthetic drug production, use, and trafficking in Afghanistan and to highlight important areas for further research.
"The report comes in a timely fashion, adding another layer of understanding to the very complex Afghan drugs situation," said UNODC's Director of Public Affairs, Jean-Luc Lemahieu. "Impressive as well was the Afghan contribution to the initial research, both institutional and personal, demonstrating the growth of the local capacity which is bridging the gap with international standards," he added.
There are strong indications that methamphetamine use is establishing itself among opiate users, which are already one of the most vulnerable parts of Afghan society. Methamphetamine is not only increasingly being seized by law enforcement in Afghanistan, but there is also evidence of manufacturing facilities in the Western part of the country.
The phenomenon of synthetic drugs cannot be understood by focussing on Afghanistan alone. Rather, this report situates the dynamics of synthetic drugs in the country within the wider context of Southwestern and Central Asia in order to understand the recent emergence and origins of synthetic drugs in Afghanistan.
The research process of this report incorporated various resources and strands of information. Much of the data and information included in the document are derived from field research material that was gathered over an eight-month period. The field research included missions to five provinces in Afghanistan, where interviews were conducted with over 100 key sources, drug users and law enforcement officials at government offices, health service centres and drug treatment providers. These various sources of information have also been supplemented by official reports involving national aggregate information and data.
While this report is limited in scope and can only present a first assessment of the synthetic drug situation in Afghanistan, its findings are highly relevant for a more nuanced understanding of the drug situation in the country, with regard to drug treatment and law enforcement. A range of potential areas for response is outlined in the report, which may be considered by national and international stakeholders.