As Afghan opium production falls, the UN issues a warning about overdose deaths.

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According to a UN assessment released on Wednesday, the collapse of opium production in Afghanistan, which was once the world's leading supply, due to Taliban orders may increase the number of overdose deaths as heroin addicts move to synthetic opioids, which are already dangerous in Europe.

In Afghanistan, opium cultivation—the raw material used to make heroin—fell by 95% last year as a result of the Taliban's 2022 ban on drug manufacturing. In its annual World Drug Report released on Wednesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that although opium production declined globally by 75% last year, it climbed by 36% in Myanmar.

"A protracted shortage of Afghan opiates could have a variety of effects in Afghanistan as well as in the nations where the drugs are transited and ended. The UNODC stated, "It is anticipated that the purity of heroin sold will decrease."

According to the UNODC, preliminary field observations suggest that there may have been a modest increase in opium cultivation in Afghanistan this year, although it is unlikely to have returned to pre-ban levels.

Up until early 2024, there were reportedly "no real shortages" in the major markets for Afghan opiates, including Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, but that might change if future harvests continue to be meager, it continued.

The research outlined the possible effects of a decrease in the availability of opiates. "Demand for opiate treatment services, including for methadone, buprenorphine, and slow-release morphine treatment, may rise, but if these services are insufficient, heroin users may switch to other opioids," it stated.

"Such a switch may pose serious health risks and increase overdoses, particularly if the substitute opioids contain extremely potent drugs like some nitazenes or fentanyl analogues that have already surfaced in some European countries recently," the statement continued.

According to UNODC research leader Angela Me, overdose deaths from nitazenes—a synthetic opioid more deadly than fentanyl—have been reported in Britain, Estonia, Latvia, and Ireland.

According to me, most heroin users purchase what they believe to be heroin, but it has actually been diluted with far more potent and inexpensive nitazenes. When tests are conducted following the overdose death, the substance is then found.

The extensive research also stated that, in 2022—the most recent year for which data is available—the supply of cocaine reached a record level. Water testing revealed rising consumption in Europe while use in the US seemed to be declining.
Following the announcement last week that women would not be allowed to attend the conference, the Taliban on Tuesday reaffirmed that their delegation will be present at the next UN-led conference on Afghanistan in Qatar.

The third UN-sponsored conference on the Afghan situation will take place in the Qatari capital of Doha on June 30 and July 1.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the Taliban had set intolerable terms for attending the second meeting in February, demanding that members of Afghan civil society be kept out of the negotiations and acknowledged as the nation's legitimate rulers. The Taliban had not been invited to the first meeting.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the main spokesman for the Taliban administration, will lead the Taliban delegation at the two-day meeting beginning on Sunday, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry in Kabul on Tuesday.

According to the ministry, the plan for the Doha meeting was deliberated during a meeting presided over by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. The agenda items covered included international sanctions placed on Afghanistan's banking and financial system, the difficulties in expanding the private sector, and government initiatives against drug trafficking.

As American and NATO forces prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan after twenty years of conflict, the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021.

To date, no nation has formally acknowledged the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. According to the UN, recognition is nearly impossible as long as restrictions on women's access to work and education are in place.
Roza Otunbayeva, the chief UN representative in Afghanistan, justified last week's decision to exclude Afghan women from the upcoming Doha summit by stating that requests for women's rights will undoubtedly be brought up.

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