Afghanistan's poppy fields have helped make it a leader when it comes to opium production. Now another plant is transforming the country into a leading meth producer, report Susannah George and Joby Warrick for the Washington Post. The native plant is locally known as oman, but it's also referred to as ephedra. It's a natural source for the main ingredient in meth, and Afghans have been using it to make meth on a large scale since 2017. The plant grows wild in the mountains, and while the process of making meth from it is just as dangerous and onerous as what's involved in making meth using pharmaceutical ingredients, Afghanistan's version is far, far cheaper to produce. George and Warrick talk to one wholesaler who sells meth for about $500 a kilo; its Western street value is in the tens of thousands.
The country's long history with the opium trade has it well positioned to export meth, with one source saying "they use the same trucks and the same routes" to get it out of the country. George and Warrick delve into whether anything is expected to change under Taliban rule (some say yes, others no), and speak with locals who say their income from meth is all that's keeping them from abject poverty. As one expert on Afghanistan’s illicit economy puts it, "Everyone was up in the mountains for the ephedra harvest in August and September—ex-army people, ex-police, everyone—because it is the only source of income in some of these highland areas." (Read the full story.)