Heroin is today universally considered the most harmful illegal drug--with the spread of AIDS through injecting drug use reinforcing its own damaging effects. The spread of illegal mass consumption since the 1960s has generated a contemporary world market made up of nearly 16 million users of heroin or other derivatives of the opium poppy, the so-called "opiates." The production and trafficking of opiates and other illegal drugs have caused crime, disease and social distress throughout much of the world. Over the last four decades, leaders of many nations have denounced the illegal drug industry and invested billions of dollars in trying to suppress it. The failure to control opium growing and heroin production in Afghanistan is a central concern for the West.
The book constitutes the first systematic analysis of the contemporary world heroin market, its development and structure, its participants, and its socio-economic impact. It summarizes the results of a five-year-long research project involving extensive primary data collection in six Asian countries, Colombia and Turkey; in an unprecedented effort, it pools the interdisciplinary and regional expertise of its three authors and numerous external collaborators.
From this comprehensive portrait, the book addresses a crucial policy question: Can world heroin production and more generally, opiate supply, be reduced and with what consequences? The book provides a firm empirical and analytic base for concluding that there is little opportunity to shrink the global supply of illegal opiates in the long term. It explains why production is concentrated--and is likely to remain concentrated--in a handful of countries. Moreover, the book identifies a small set of policy opportunities, largely local, and makes suggestions for leveraging them. The book also provides the first comparative analysis of national efforts to control international trafficking. Lastly, the book offers new insight to market conditions in countries that have been greatly affected by illegal opiates, including India's previously overlooked contributions to supply and Tajikistan's extraordinary economic dependence on trafficking.