Afghan men walk through a poppy field east of Kabul, April 11, 2013 (Photo: AP)
A new United Nations report says the amount of opium being farmed in Afghanistan has gone up for the third year in a row.
Afghanistan already produces 90 per cent of the world's opium, which is frequently processed to create heroin.
TheU.N. report says farmers are cultivating even more of the drug, with output having increased in 12 of the country's 34 provinces.
And according to the report, Taliban militants are taking advantage of poor security in many regions to win support by helping opium farmers.
With foreign forces expected to pull out by the end of 2014, officials are concerned Afghanistan could end up depending on opium money to prop up its economy.
One international law official suggested Afghanistan could become "the world's first true narco-state."
The U.N. has estimated that opium trafficking makes up 15 per cent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product, the New York Times reports, and that figure is expected to rise when NATO pulls military and development aid out of the economy.
The price of opium poppies has been high since 2010, when a blight severely reduced crop yields.
A farmer can make as much as $200 a kilogram for harvested opium. Compare that with wheat at 43 cents a kilogram, and rice at $1.25.
Along with the sale of opium, it's also said to be having a serious effect on the social fabric of Afghanistan.
With a population of 35 million people, more than one million Afghans are now addicted to drugs, the BBC reports.
Afghan addicts smoke heroin in Jalalabad, January 31, 2013
That's the highest rate of addiction in the world, and the reasons why it's happening are complex.
Unemployment is nearly 40 per cent, leaving many people desperate.
And drugs are easy to get, especially with increased production. Addicts told the BBC that buying heroin in Kabul is "as easy as buying yourself something to eat," with one gram costing about $6.
Decades of violent conflict in Afghanistan have also contributed to the drug problem.
Many people who have left the country during the past 30 years went to Iran and Pakistan, both places with high rates of addiction. Now, they're coming back and bringing their drug problems along, officials say.
To read more about the situation of addicts in Afghanistan, and to see some photographs and video, head over to the BBC.