Prescription Opiates: The Way Forward for Afghanistan

By chillinwill · Dec 4, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Afghanistan is currently the largest opium producer in the world. It is the only significant source of wealth in the country aside from US and other foreign aid. All of this opium is going to organized crime to be sold illegally, primarily as heroin.

    Meanwhile, the market is legal prescription opiates is many billions of dollars a year. Such drugs include morphine, codeine, Vicodin, and Oxycotin. These drugs are made from opium produced by licensed growers, largely in India and Turkey. There is also a large shortage of prescription opiates in the developing world, primarily among the population too poor to buy them at market rates.

    Without an economic basis, there is no way for Afghanistan to stabilize, develop, and escape from poverty. And if Afghanistan does not do these things, its people will continue in lives of grinding poverty and danger, the place will continue to be ruled by warlords or religious fanatics, and the prospect of renewal as an export station for terror returns. Our military objectives in Afghanistan are beyond military powers. An army cannot provide a basis for a functioning modern society; it’s nation building or bust. And the only productive economic activity within reach is the one already being engaged in.

    The solution suggests itself, and I am not the first one to notice. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS. Formerly called the "Senlis Council") has a formal proposal to legalize the Afghan opium industry for production of legal prescription painkillers. The advisory board of ICOS includes many prominent political figures, so no one should dismiss this as a "hippy project" (though it would still be a worthy idea if advocated only by hippies).

    Many of us are skeptical of the prospects for our current Afghan venture, and there is good reason. But we are in it now, and it would be much better for Afghanistan, for the US, for the region, and for the world for us to leave Afghanistan on a stronger footing than we found it. Under the Taliban, it was stable and had law and order. That is to say, it was governed, however oppressively. Under the previous period of warlord rule, it was barely governed, and that chaos is what made the emergence of the Taliban government tolerable to many. Rather than simply trying to impose our structures or values by force, we should be offering to Afghanistan the prospect for developing and taking control of its own destiny with a legitimate reason for hope. As well as growing the opium itself, at least some of the processing could be done on site, so that there are ancillary industries as well. This, too, is part of the ICOS proposal.

    And this can come with strings attached. The total opium production of farmers who sell to us (for resale to global pharmaceutical firms) must go to us. We will monitor them with satellites to ensure this, but the best insurance will just be a pay them a return at least in the ballpark of what they can get on the black market (because the black market will be much less certain), and preferably much greater. We will also monitor their use of the funds to ensure they are not funding al queda or the Taliban. At the same time, we can crack down on the illegal opium in a way in which we cannot really now, because it is too vital to the country’s survival. This gives us a basis to transition from a military to a civilian mission.

    One of the problems with the Bush Presidency is that he cynically debased the coin of noble goals. Bush clearly never gave a damn about improving the condition of the Afghan (or Iraqi) people, but we should. We should because we encouraged them to war with the Soviets and then abandoned them to their fate. We should because we educated, trained, and funded the mujahidin for years for our own purposes, and the Afghan people paid the price when those mujahidin struck at us. We should because we toppled a vile, but stable, government, and replaced it with instability. We also should because nothing could more effectively improve our standing in the world - particularly though not solely the Islamic world - than doing right by at least one of the countries that we have used as a pawn in our geopolitical battles. This doesn’t mean we should bite off more than we can chew, nor that we should "bear any burden". It is not an existential battle for us, so there are burdens we can legitimately refuse to bear. But a legal opium industry will cost us little and can change the whole calculus of the country.

    It actually helps that the Karzai family is in the opium trade. That would be a place to start. Get Karzai to go legit. Second step is to keep him from using the government to crush competitors. Make sure the deal is open to anyone who meets specified criteria. In addition, make sure any refining operations are under separate ownership from the growing operations. That is to prevent the opium growers, people already too involved with organized crime, from being the only well-off people in the society, which would lend itself to something like feudalism.

    ICOS itself is focused on using Afghanistan to supply the underserved developing world market. This is probably to avoid stepping on the toes of India and Turkey. Indeed, currently the US by law imports 80% of its opium from those two countries. The ICOS proposal is a start, but I would favor going farther, even at some costs to Turkish and Indian toes. Those two countries are far better off than Afghanistan and have fast-growing and diverse economies in which opium plays only a small role.

    December 3, 2009
    Daily Kos

    Share This Article


  1. derekxnl
    I think the ICOS proposal is a great idea and huge step forward for Afghanistan. We cannot expect the region to become stable without a good economic footing, and like it or not, the opium trade is that footing. The rest of the world needs to step down from their "moral high ground" and learn from this.
  2. CrystalDextro
    Swim remembers in 2001 when the United States deployed into Afghanistan the price of opiate painkillers dropping.... but thats not fact by any means. Swim figured that the capitalistic pigs would take advantage of the presence of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.
  3. Herbal Healer 019
    This has been a long awaited idea considering Afghanistan has been the top opium producer since the early 2000s.

    It wouldn't surprise me if we all see the market demand for opioids increasing worldwide and the media spewing propaganda like no other about rises in prescription opioid use/abuse following the implementation of a legitemate market for afghan opium.
  4. cra$h
    I was just discussing this the other day with a friend, weird you bring it up. What we've come to the conclusion to is instead of dropping bombs on poppy fields, out bid the heroin producers. The only reason why they fuel the heroin industry is because dope pays much more, and the farmers/guards aren't just some kid trying to make a quick buck. They're trying to put food on the table for their starving family, and the black market is the most profitable. Plus by the US especially legally buying the morphine from Afghan poppies, it would not only help their terrible economy, but it would help heal the wounds between the two nations, and Afghanistan would be a nice friend to have. It would be a great way to say sorry too. Now why we didn't do this in the first place is beyond me, but after all, the arms industry is the LARGEST in the world, right in front of drugs.

    Now this wouldn't really help with increasing health care costs, but I think it would be a good thing to invest to. Not only that but it would drive prescription pills through the roof, crippling the black market for them (bad news for swim...) and there would be a major shortage of heroin (even worse for swim.... in a sense).

    Wow, world leaders are fuckin retarded. No need to be so trigger happy in such an "advanced" society.
  5. thebige
    Swim was thinking.........
    The main problem is the opium trade.They could flood the world market with product in a short period of time without severe restrictions.Its not like they have any industry to put back together.........

    There are alot pharmaceutical company's the have their fields in Australia.
    No war your Oxycontin is safe. ha

    And dont forget south Asia,South America and others.............the USA.
  6. cra$h
    Afghanistan might actually be cheaper to import morphine from, being that it's a poorer country.

    Plus this is an opportunity for Afghanistan to potentially be a world leader. With money they can improve infrastructure as well as education.

    WHY HAVEN'T WE DONE THIS YET!!!?!?!?!?!?
  7. johnnyyen
    SWIM likes this idea very much,he believes that the longer that the wests venture in Afghanistan goes on,and the more bodies come home in bags the more unpopular this phoney war on terror/drugs will become..
    despite having troops on the ground in increasing numbers for many years now,the flow of heroin out of Afghanistan never falters,not for a day or two..not ever..
    it flows out of there in ever increasing amounts constantly,This 'war' is not working and the price for all countries concerned is just too high..
    (over 100 British soldier s this year alone)..if this half baked occupation of Afghanistan is allowed to continue much longer,there wont be a country worth saving left..that and just about every family in England/America will know of someone who died out there for an increasingly unjustifiable reason...
    the old methods are no longer working,the toothpaste is out of the tube,heroin is here to stay,like it or not,every worker in the vast drugs treatment industry knows in their hearts that they too are fighting a war that was lost many years back,the best that can be achieved nowadays is damage limitation and harm prevention through education.. its my opinion that for every addict that gets clean,gives up or dies,there are many others just starting on the road of use/dependence and addiction...this is never going to end..yes legalize the fields.....bring the troops home,stop making arms dealers rich,use the money saved to beef up the drugs treatment facilities in our cities.. *rant ends*
  8. rekoner4
    this is a deffinantly a good idea but i highly doubt the icos will go through;for a few reasons. first this may sound cynical and anti-american but its to helpful to the aphgan people to be true. second we dont know the extent of are current involvement with the afgahn opiam trade, for all we know thats why we lurk there. it seems like a very good idea but it may cause to many loops for the opiam lords to jump through and unwanted attention from an already unwanted presence. and if it were able to match the profits of blackmarket sales it may take awhile to transfer buyers from already set up oopiam trades that have been established and negotiated over for decades.
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!