The Global Diversion of Pharmaceutical Drugs, India

The Third Largest Illicit Opium Producer?

Published In: Addiction, v. 104, no. 3, Mar. 2009, p. 347-354

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Letizia Paoli, Victoria A. Greenfield, Molly Charles, Peter Reuter

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AIMS: This paper explores India's role in the world illicit opiate market, particularly its role as a producer. India, a major illicit opiate consumer, is also the sole licensed exporter of raw opium: this unique status may be enabling substantial diversion to the illicit market. METHODS: Participant observation and interviews were carried out at eight different sites. Information was also drawn from all standard secondary sources and the analysis of about 180 drug-related criminal proceedings reviewed by Indian High Courts and the Supreme Court from 1985 to 2001. FINDINGS: Diversion from licit opium production takes place on such a large scale that India may be the third largest illicit opium producer after Afghanistan and Burma. With the possible exceptions of 2005 and 2006, 200-300 tons of India's opium may be diverted yearly. After estimating India's opiate consumption on the basis of UN-reported prevalence estimates, we find that diversion from licit production might have satisfied a quarter to more than a third of India's illicit opiate demand to 2004. CONCLUSIONS: India is not only among the world's largest consumer of illicit opiates but also one of the largest illicit opium producers. In contrast to all other illicit producers, India owes the latter distinction not to blatantly illicit cultivation but to diversion from licit cultivation. India's experience suggests the difficulty of preventing substantial leakage, even in a relatively well-governed nation.

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