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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opium Production Hits a Record High

VIENNA, Austria -- Afghanistan produced dramatically more opium in 2006, increasing its yield by roughly 49 percent from a year earlier and pushing global opium production to a new record high, a UN report said.

Opium production in Afghanistan increased from 4,100 metric tons in 2005 to 6,100 metric tons in 2006, according to the 2007 World Drug Report released this week by the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Opium is the main ingredient for heroin.

In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global illicit opium production, up from 70 percent in 2000 and 52 percent a decade earlier. The higher yields in Afghanistan have brought global opium production to a new record high of 6,610 metric tons in 2006, a 43 percent increase over 2005.

The area under opium poppy cultivation in the country also expanded, from 104,000 hectares in 2005, to 165,000 hectares in 2006 -- an increase of about 59 percent.

"This is the largest area under opium poppy cultivation ever recorded in Afghanistan," the report said, noting that 62 percent of the cultivation was concentrated in the country's southern region.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN drug office, warned that Afghanistan's insurgency-hit Helmand province was becoming the world's biggest drug supplier, with illicit cultivation there larger than in the rest of the country put together.

"Effective surgery on Helmand's drug and insurgency cancer will rid the world of the most dangerous source of its most dangerous narcotic and go a long way to bringing security to the region," Costa said in a statement.

Early indications suggest Afghanistan could see a further increase in opium production in 2007, the report said. "Developments in Afghanistan will continue to determine the levels of global opium production," the report said.

The annual report also found that the production, trafficking and consumption of other illicit drugs have largely stabilized globally and that the estimated level of global drug use has remained more or less unchanged for the third year running.

About 200 million people -- or 5 percent of the world's population aged 15 to 64 -- used drugs at least once in the previous 12 months, it said. Of those, an estimated 25 million -- or 0.6 percent of the global population -- were so-called problem drug users, or individuals who are heavily drug dependent. That estimate also remained unchanged.

"Recent data show that the runaway train of drug addiction has slowed down," Costa said.

Cannabis continues to account for the vast majority of illegal drug use and is consumed by some 160 million people, the report said.