Heroin global overview (EU Drug Markets Report)

Global overview

Opium poppies are grown illicitly in three main regions:

  • South-West Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan and India);
  • South-East Asia (Myanmar and Laos); and
  • the Americas (especially Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala).

There are emerging reports of poppy cultivation and heroin production in the Middle East, but there are no estimates of the scope of this phenomenon (EMCDDA–Europol, 2013; Council of the European Union, 2015b). The majority of the global detected illicit opium output still comes from Afghanistan (85 % of the total of more than 7 500 tonnes in 2014), although recent data indicate that the Afghan opium crop decreased by almost 50 %, to 3 300 tonnes, in 2015 (UNODC, 2015a,b).

Global quantities of opium seized increased to 634 tonnes in 2013, approaching the peak level of 668 tonnes recorded in 2009 (UNODC, 2015a). Iran seized 69 % of the total in 2013 and, although not a significant producer of opium, has traditionally been the country reporting the largest quantities of opium seized in the world (UNODC, 2011b, 2015a).

Global illicit production of heroin was estimated at 526 tonnes in 2014. It is too early to assess the impact that the drop in Afghan opium production in 2015 will have on heroin production estimates. 

In 2013 (16), quantities of heroin and morphine seized worldwide decreased, to 116 tonnes. Large quantities of heroin and morphine were seized on the historical Balkan route, along which opiates have traditionally been trafficked from Afghanistan to western Europe (UNODC, 2015a).

It is estimated that, in 2013, there were about 32 million users of opioids worldwide, most of whom, it is thought, live in North America, Oceania, South-West Asia, eastern Europe, including Russia, and South-East Europe. About half are thought to be using opiates, mainly heroin (UNODC, 2014b). Although some western heroin consumer markets, such as the EU, now appear to be shrinking, the level of illicit opium production in Asia in 2014 was amongst the highest ever recorded. If most of the opium harvested in Asia does not end up as heroin on western markets, where does it go? This issue will be considered further below. 

Source: UNODC, World Drug Reports. EMCDDA, European Drug Report 2015.;

Note: The estimates presented are up to 2013; more recent EU figures are available but have not been used for the purposes of comparability. For the most up-to- -date European data, please refer to Table 4.1. 

Short title: 
Global overview
Footnotes: 

(16) The last year for which global seizure data are currently available.