KABUL – Methamphetamine, the illicit stimulant notorious for reducing the need for sleep, has emerged as a global concern, and drug enforcement agencies are losing sleep over its proliferation, surpassing heroin in the drug trade. South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, has become the epicenter of this worrisome trend.
This month, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shed light on the alarming surge in meth trafficking in Afghanistan, once a primary source of heroin. Methamphetamine, promoted as a more affordable alternative to cocaine, knows no borders.
India is sounding the alarm over this looming threat, launching “Operation Samudragupt” to combat the maritime trafficking of drugs originating in Afghanistan. In response to a parliamentary inquiry in March, the government disclosed that it had seized and destroyed 4.2 kg of meth in 2018. By 2022, this figure had skyrocketed to 357 kg, yet this is merely the tip of the iceberg. The root of the problem lies in Afghanistan’s transformation into a narco-state, where illegal drugs have become the largest economic sector, as per the European Foundation for South Asian Studies. The Taliban’s presence provides a structural framework for this illicit industry. In a nation grappling with profound poverty, the wild growth of ephedra plants serves as a natural resource for meth production. UNODC estimates the financial return for 1 kg of meth (50% purity) sourced from ephedra to be $405.
Indian state governments must remain vigilant to the perils posed by meth. With a significant portion of its youth unemployed, coupled with the aggressive marketing of meth as an affordable stimulant in an economy witnessing increased purchasing power, the risks are alarming. For drug enforcement agencies, it’s akin to a never-ending battle on a constantly evolving battlefield. In this relentless struggle, eternal vigilance remains the only effective response.