Johann Hari is not my favourite columnist, and Prospect disappoints most times I read it, and I'm not a registered user of the website so can only read the first few paragraphs, but Hari has written on the Senlis Council's proposal to divert opium from the heroin trade and use it for medicinal purposes, and he describes the problem well.
In Kabul hospital, half the patients who need opiate-based painkillers are writhing in agony because they have none — while in the fields outside and across Afghanistan, farmers trying to grow opiates are having their fields trashed and livelihoods destroyed by western troops. This is just the most ironic intersection between the west's "war on drugs" and what the World Health Organisation calls "an unprecedented global pain crisis."
The world is suffering from an opium drought. The International Narcotics Control Board calculates that the US, Britain, France, Canada, Spain, Australia and Japan consume 80 per cent of the world's medical opiates, leaving the remaining 80 per cent of humanity with the dregs. Even in developed countries, in cancer care alone there is a need for 550 metric tons more opium every year, and overall — according to a University of Toronto study — only about 24 per cent of the demand for medical opiates is now being met.
At the same time, a violent and utopian attempt to physically stop Afghans from growing the opiates we need is causing us to lose a battle there that Tony Blair has called "essential for the safety of civilisation."... [Prospect]