New Internationalist

Facts

October 1984

new internationalist
issue 140 October 1984

Dangerous connections
the facts...

Illegal drugs make the news. They reach the street through a lucrative trafficking system that pays the Third World farmer a thousand times less than the final price. But we never hear about the profitable flow of dangerous drugs from North to South, for the rich world has deemed its own drugs legal. The New Internationalist presents the facts on the inter-continental trade in mood-altering substances.

Because the trade is illegal and there are wide regional variations, drug statistics can never be 100 per cent accurate.
However, the Canadian police and the UN are the most reliable sources available.
[image, unknown]
FRANK FISCHBECK / CAMERA PRESS

HOME GROWN, HOME CURED, HOME USED -

Asia has more opiate users than anywhere else in the world.

Consumption of South East Asian opium harvest 1982/3

Figures for use of the opium poppy harvest have to be vague, as much is grown in inaccessible jungle and mountain areas. However it is estimated that 70% is used locally, 15% is used in Europe, 9% in Hong Kong. 4.5% in North America and 1.5% in Australasia.

Number of opiate users
These figures include users of heroin, opium and morphine.


 

Known/registered users

Estimated actual users

Iran

-

875,000

Thailand

29,725 (92% heroin)

500,000

Pakistan

-

480,000

Malaysia

65,200 (all heroin)

400,000

Burma

33,629 (80% opium)

100,000

Afghanistan

-

100,000

Hong Kong

41,900

50,000

United States

-

492,000

United Kingdom

10,270

50,000

Canada

13,000

20,000

 

THE HEROIN CONNECTION

Seller

Place

Amount

Price (US$)

Street pushers
(Actually sold 95% adulterated, in capsule form, for $50)

Vancouver

I kilo

1,000,000

Wholesaler

Canada

1 kilo

225,000

Distributor

Bangkok

1 kilo

11,500

Laboratory

Burma/Laos/Thailand

1 kilo (heroin)

5,000

Farmers

Burma/Laos/Thailand

10 kilos (opium)

800

(Source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, NDIE 1982)

 

THE CANNABIS CONNECTION

Seller

Place

Amount

Price (US$)

Street pushers
(Actually sold in small amounts of varying size, 28 grams costing $100)

Montreal

I kilo

3,570

Trafficker

Canada

1 kilo

225,000

Farmers

Colombia

1 kilo

100

(Source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, NDIE 1982)

 

THE COCAINE CONNECTION

Seller

Place

Amount

Price (US$)

Street pushers
(Actually sold in one gram amounts, 75% adulterated for $200)

Toronto

I kilo

800,000

Wholesaler

Canada

1 kilo

100,000

Distributor

Colombia

1 kilo

18,000

Laboratory

Colombia

1 kilo (cocaine)

7,000

Farmers

Bolivia

500 kilos
(coca leaves)

2,000

(Source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, NDIE 1982)

 

THE LEGAL CONNECTION

Despite justified concern about illegal drugs, it is the socially acceptable and habit-forming drink, cigarettes and medicines which are the biggest killers. And these are being promoted and consumed in dramatically increasing quantities in the poor and hungry continents. Some idea of the relative size of the legal and illegal drugs problems come from statistics of a fairly typical Westem country - Australia. As a proportion of all drug-related deaths in 1980, tobacco accounted for 79.2%, alcohol for 17.5% and other drugs (including pharmaceuticals as well as illegal drugs) only 3.3%.

Pharmaceuticals

  • Illegal US trade in mood-altering chemical drugs $21 billion pa.
  • ‘Accidents’ involving prescribed drugs account for 5% of hospital admissions, according to studies in Australia and Ireland.
  • Production of barbiturates rose from 66,188 kilos in 1976 to 155,127 kilos by 1980; much of this was due to pharmaceutical companies’ vigorous promotion in the Third World.
  • During the Seventies pharmaceutical sales in developing countries rose by 20% pa.
  • Of the 2452 drugs introduced in 1980 more than 40% were launched in the Third World.

[image, unknown] Alcohol

The World Health Organisation calculated that in 1980 between one and ten per cent of the populations of most Western countries were ‘alcoholics’ or ‘heavy drinkers with severe alcohol-related problems’.

And at least half of US murders and a third of US suicides are alcohol-related. Alcohol consumption has increased dramatically in the last twenty years.

Yearly alcohol consumption per person over 14 in litres
[image, unknown]
photo by Dexter Tiranti

Tobacco

  • One million people die prematurely every year from cigarette smoking, according to the World Health Organisation.
  • On average each cigarette shortens the life of a habitual smoker by 5.5 minutes.
  • A woman smoker has a projected lifespan 17 years shorter than a woman non-smoker.

 

 

 

 

 

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This feature was published in the October 1984 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 140

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