The Golden Crescent is a key area of illegal opium growth spanning Western, Central, and South Asia. It covers the mountains of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. It should not be confused with the Golden Triangle which is the only other significant region of illegal opium growing area. It is easy to differentiate the two by geographical coverage because the Golden Triangle covers South East Asia at the borders of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. The opium grown in the Golden Crescent is the raw ingredient in the production of the drug heroin and other legal medicinal drugs.
Status of the Golden Crescent
The Golden Crescent has earned its status for opium production since the 1950s. While many factors have affected its production, it has continued to be a key source of opium reaching a peak of 89% of the global opium produced in the year 2007. This opium is mostly sold in the Americas, Europe, Central Asia, and Africa, and is consumed by 9.5 million narcotic consumers all over the world.
From Opium to Heroin
The opium poppy seed produces latex which is dried to produce the basic ingredient of opium and other sedative drugs. The old style of extracting latex is to graze the poppy seed pods vertically so that the latex seeps out and dries to a glue-like substance. The gluey substance is then processed to extract morphine, which is in turn converted to heroin. Heroin is a sedative drug used for recreational purposes because it puts the user in a blissful state. Despite its negative reputation, it is used in the medical field to relieve pain or in the treatment of drug dependency.
Drug Trafficking and the Golden Crescent
Heroin and other products of opium from the Golden Crescent account for a large number of the drugs trafficked through the Middle East and Europe. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the Golden Crescent. However, poor legislation and control measures ensure that trafficking arrests are made in neighboring countries. At least 90% of the seizures are made at country borders with traffickers trying to distribute the drugs into countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Official estimates show that there are more than one million traffickers involved in the illegal drug trade. The allure to such a risky job is the high returns that come from selling to the high demand markets in Europe and Africa.
The Evolving Drug Trade
With increasing cooperation between nations that have banned opium and its products, the Golden Crescent is evolving into a source of opium for areas that were previously supplied by the Golden Triangle. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime keeps a World Drug Report that provides updates on the illegal opium trade volumes, the trafficking arrests, and the effects of illicit drug use. All these provide a perspective on the progress of the Golden Crescent. On the other hand, drug trafficking organizations have made their methods more complex to avoid capture and aid in the distribution of illicit drugs. The profits made from such drug activities are so huge that any capture of illegal drugs barely affects their operations.
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