Global Council for Tolerance and Peace

Papaver somniferum: The World’s Most Dangerous Plant

By: Benjamin Lutz

Benjamin Lutz

More commonly known as opium poppy, this plant is the originator of opium, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, and most dangerously, heroin. This plant has an immensely long history in relationship to people as a result of its intoxicating and pain relief qualities. It is one of the most widespread plants in relation to its modern usage as medicine, food, and intoxicants. However, its transformation into heroin has led to a global network of illicit trafficking, addition, and death.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the annual cultivation of the Papaver somniferum plant yields 430 tons of heroin for international distribution. Of that total, 380 tons comes from Afghanistan alone, the largest producer of the drug. The remaining is grown in Myanmar and Laos. However, the growth alone represents only a third of the dangers of opium. Cultivation, farming, and irrigation for the plant are incredibly risky as a result of the international efforts to curb the drug trade. Many groups that employ terrorist tactics capitalize on the heroin market in order to finance their other activities.

The second third of heroin lies in the international trafficking corridors leaving Afghanistan. As a result of this incredibly addictive and illegal drug, the transport networks are often fraught with immense danger, but a high pay off. In 2010, it is estimated that $33 Billion dollars is the total amount of the heroin market through the transportation, sale and usage of heroin globally. This doesn’t take into account and of the other forms of the opium plant as well.

And finally, the most dangerous aspect of this plant is its transformation into heroin and its usage in that form. Heroin is one of the most addictive substances, creating dependencies on many of its uses, and killing an average of 100,000 people annually. The war in Afghanistan is seen as a facilitator of the international drug trade as Afghanis resorted to the plant’s cultivation in order to survive.

This drug is immensely dangerous, but this plant has a wide variety of uses, many of which are life-saving and nourishing. The dual nature of the Papaver somniferum has made it quite difficult to control, accounting for the power and influence of the heroin illicit drug trade.

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