Posts Tagged ‘Heroin Addiction’

The real surge in Afghanistan

October 25, 2015

Opium-Afghanistan-chartSource: United Nations Afghanistan Opium Survey 2014.

The United Nations estimates that Afghan farmers produce an estimated 90 percent of the world’s opium poppies, the raw material for heroin, and production is steadily rising.

Much of it is in provinces controlled by the Taliban rebels.  They tax farmers, based on their potential revenue from growing opium, and most farmers have no practical alternative to raising opium, even if they wanted one.

American sources, however, claim that more than 90 percent of U.S. heroin originates in Latin America.   Most of the heroin made from Afghan opium goes to Europe.

U.S. efforts to eradicate opium production or encourage legal crops have been of little avail.  Jonah Blank, an Afghanistan expert for the RAND Corporation, said it isn’t practical to conduct a counter-insurgency campaign and an anti-narcotics campaign at the same time (which is probably true), and the counter-insurgency campaign is more important.

Back in 2000, the Taliban announced a ban on opium poppy farming as contrary to Islam, and this actually took effect in 2001.  This created great hardship and even starvation.  Although Secretary of State Colin Powell announced $43 million emergency aid to help them out, the Taliban leaders were reportedly disappointed about the lack of a positive response from world leaders.  All this changed after Sept. 11, 2001.


The Real Afghanistan Surge Is In Heroin Production And Tripled Opium Cultivation Since the US Military Arrived by Meryl Naas, M.D., for her blog (via naked capitalism).  Excellent article with many useful links.

As Heroin Use Grows In U.S., Poppy Crops Thrive in Afghanistan by Elizabeth Chuck for NBC News.

Afghanistan Is Home to 400,000 Football Fields Worth of Opium by Lucy Westcott for Newsweek.

Taliban’s Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say by Barbara Crossette for the New York Times in 2001.

How heroin came to middle-class white America

August 13, 2015

DREAMLAND: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones is the story of how heroin addiction spread through rural and suburban white America.

Dreamland was the name of a popular swimming pool in Portsmouth, Ohio, a small city on the Ohio river that once was the center of the U.S. shoe manufacturing industry.

The pool closed as the shoe industry declined, but Portsmouth gave birth to a new industry—the mass prescription of  legal but addictive pain medications such as Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ OxyContin.

Regular practitioners were misled into thinking that OxyContin, a biochemical twin of heroin, and related were harmless, but industry really took off with the spread of “pill mills”—medical practices that were limited to the prescription of pills for alleged pain/

DreamlandQuinones51pEBThe business of addictive prescription drugs is one part of the story Quinones told.  The other more startling part is how poor people in the small Mexican town of Xalisco (population about 20,000) created a nationwide distribution franchise system which spread their locally-cooked black tar heroin across the United States.

The Xalisco Boys, as police came to call them, did not carry weapons, did not use drugs themselves, and never sold to black people (whom they thought were violent).   They emphasized product quality, good customer service and competitive prices, with discounts for new customers.

They created an equivalent to a pizza delivery franchise, in which customers could call a certain number and have heroin delivered to a certain spot.   The drivers were inconspicuous, kept out of trouble and drove nondescript vehicles.

They put heroin in balloons, which they kept in their mouths.  When police stopped them, they swallowed the balloons, which they were later able to recover, with the heroin intact.

As they moved out from their original base in the San Fernando Valley, they avoided areas where violent drug gangs operated. Instead they moved into areas where prescription painkillers such as OxyContin were heavily sold, and offered their product as a cheaper and easier-to-obtain substitute.

The Mexican drug cartels and urban criminal gangs are responsible for much of the heroin sold in the United States, Quinones wrote.  They control the heroin trade in Chicago, Atlanta, northern California and many other urban centers, he said; very little heroin comes from Asia any more.   The Xalisco Boys took heroin where the established traffickers never thought to go.


The passing scene: Links & comments 6/10/14

June 10, 2014

Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations and hypnotize the media by Thomas Frank for Salon.

College tuition is up an average of 1,200 percent in 30 years.  If that isn’t abuse of monopoly power, what is?  American universities are following an extreme form of the American corporate business model:  Gouge the customers, lower wages (by hiring perma-temp instructors, a.k.a. adjuncts) and award yourself a huge salary for your success in doing so.

Heroin Users in U.S. 90% White, Live Outside Urban Areas by Sonali Basak for Bloomberg News.

A recent study showed that the typical first-time heroin user is an older white person who became dependent on prescription painkillers, then switched to heroin because it was more easily obtainable or—get this!—more affordable than the drug companies’ products.

Lack of funding is the real VA scandal by Suzanne Gordon for Physicians for a National Health Program.

Want to end secret wait lists?  Staff the VA  by J. David Cox for the Huffington Post.

“Cheap.  Fast. Good.  Pick any two.”  In anything, there are tradeoffs.  If Congress chooses to deny the Veterans Administration the sufficient funds to keep up with its increased workload, that’s probably the reason it can’t keep up with its workload.