Worldwide production of heroin and cocaine ‘in decline’

Author: By Justin Huggler

The United Nations claimed yesterday that it was winning the war against drugs, saying in its “World Drug Report 2000” that global production of cocaine and heroin is falling for the first time in recent years.

But behind this apparent success story lies a less rosy reality: heroin and cocaine production is falling because a generation of young drug users is turning to ecstasy and other synthetic drugs.

World production of opium, from which heroin is refined, fell at least 17 per cent last year, the UN report says. Production of cocaine and coca leaves fell by 7 per cent in 1999 – the most recent data – and is now 20 per cent lower than in 1992-93.

But consumption of ecstasy and other synthetic drugs is rising, said Sandro Tucci, a spokesman for the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

“There is good news and there is bad news,” he said. “Because all the international focus has been on the harder drugs, cocaine and heroin, we have concentrated on those. But there are still very serious challenges ahead.”

The lower production is due to a fall in demand, Mr Tucci said. “This is thanks to the reduction demand programmes many countries have put into practice.” The average age of heroin and cocaine users is rising, but that reflects a shift in demand for other drugs by a younger generation.

Policing by United States agencies has contributed to the fall in cocaine production, with more cocaine being seized, Mr Tucci said. The production of both heroin and cocaine is being isolated in a few countries, with Colombia producing 75 per cent of cocaine, and Afghanistan and Burma between them producing 90 per cent of opium.

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