U.N. drug body warns of more heroin deaths on record Afghan supply

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. drug body warned on Friday that record poppy output in Afghanistan will translate into a spike in heroin-induced deaths, with death rates already rising in Britain and the United States.

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached its highest last year since records began in 1998, according to the annual report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Afghanistan accounts for about 85 percent of opium production and 77 percent of worldwide heroin production, UNODC’s annual World Drug Report showed.

“We know there is much larger supply of opiates that will be translating into heroin ... It’s important to warn that the supply is there,” Angela Me, one of the main authors of the report, told reporters in Vienna.

“In the (United States) and in (Britain)... we see a market with increased supply particularly of cheap heroin and we already see some impact in terms of deaths. We see heroin-related deaths are going up,” she said.

A major impact in global use of heroin and related dangers is likely to appear in the coming year as opiates take one to two years to reach consumer markets such as Europe.

Afghan supply is going up as farmers have more incentives to cultivate poppy than other crops. The infrastructure surrounding opium, for example, is safer than for other crops in Afghan areas with militant violence because traffickers come straight to the farmers to pick up the product, Me said.

In terms of global cultivation of opiates, the area used for growing opiates went up by 5 percent to cover the equivalent of around 440,000 soccer pitches.

“Heroin continues to be the most dangerous drug,” Me said, adding that heroin accounts for the great majority of the 200,000 drug-deaths a year.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Tom Heneghan