Drugs and Their Origins

drug production world mapDrug addiction is always making headlines but few people really know where the drugs come from. In this article we explore where the most used drugs are grown or created to help people better understand drugs and the drug trade.


For years Colombia has been the cocaine capital of the world. The coca plants are grown and processed in the country for export to North America Europe and the rest of the world. This all changed in 2012 though when the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that Peru actually grows more coca plants. The cocaine production in Peru has increased 40% since 2000. After Peru and Colombia, Bolivia is the third largest cocaine producer.


Since 1992 Afghanistan has been the largest producer of opium and opium poppies in the world. They currently supply around 93% of the world’s opium poppies. It is such big business that the sale of opium poppies works out to more than one third of the entire countries GDP. Afghanistan is part of a heroin growing region called the golden crescent which covers Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Along with Afghan heroin, the drug has historically been grown in the golden triangle. This is an area straddling Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and part of China. These two regions supply nearly all of the heroin for Asia, Europe Africa and Australia. They also provide some heroin for North America but much of the supply to the US and Canada comes from Colombia and Mexico.

Synthetic highs:

India and China produce the lion’s share of the so called legal highs used worldwide. The have the infrastructure and education to create laboratories and chemists but their lack the law enforcement and oversight of more developed countries. This makes them the perfect place to produce large numbers of legal highs which can keep ahead of drug laws in other countries.


Most of the world’s cannabis is grown in Mexico, Paraguay and Afghanistan. Mexico has long been the major supplier of cannabis for North American and much of Central American. Paraguay supplies south American and is thought to be the primary supplier for Brazil. Afghanistan supplies a great deal of the European and Asian cannabis. While these three countries produce the most cannabis they have a great deal of competition. Cannabis is grown in nearly every country in the world which means that much of the cannabis in any one place could have been grown locally. New laws legalising cannabis in the US have also pushed more production there and as the country seems to slide closer to full legalisation, the USA could easily become the largest cannabis supplier world-wide. 

To learn more about drug addiction, check out the Life Works Knowledge Centre

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