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Opiates for the masses?

22 April 2016

Why is it that opium poppies are a legitimate crop in Australia and India, but not in Mexico?  Why is the first world so dependent on opioids (synthetic opium) when the real thing is available… and probably much less harmful?

This makes sense to me:

Poppy field in Guerrero. Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times

Poppy field in Guerrero. Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times

Mexico’s government has explored regulating poppy production to make pharmaceutical opiates like morphine in an effort to weaken heroin-smuggling gangs, according to two sources with knowledge of the government’s thinking.

Amid a government review of drugs policy, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong asked policy experts late last year whether Mexico could win authorization from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations body, to grow and export opium poppies for painkillers.

“It’s a legitimate question,” said one of the sources with direct knowledge of the talks, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “States have to ask themselves questions and have to discuss their policies.”

It is not clear how seriously the government is considering the regulation of poppy production and it has not yet approached the INCB directly but the discussion illustrates how concerned it is about heroin-related violence.

(full story from Reuters here)

While the first world gets pain relief, the restrictions on commercial opium production keeps the rest of the world from low-cost access to necessary pharmacueticals.  And, as it is, opium poppies were, and still are, a traditional crop that would be fairly simple to bring under commercial control.  No doubt there still would be some heroin production, and diversion of raw opium to the underground trade, but it that any worse than what happens now with Oxicontin and other opioids?


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