Afghanistanhas poppy fields galore. Poppy seeds become opium. The opium treated becomes heroin.
Today, the United States is facing its deadliest illicit drug epidemic in history. A heroin epidemic. Previous drug epidemics shade in comparison.
Afghanistan is responsible for 85 percent of the world’s opium production. A significant portion of that production has found its way to America’s streets.
I wrote a column in 2014 asking the question why Afghanistan poppy fields were basically untouched during the U.S. war years in Afghanistan.
The U.S. put boots on the ground in 2001. The U.S. military was still fighting in 2014 when the column was written. The U.S. military is still fighting today in 2016.
Not only were the poppy fields untouched by war, even the 3,000 farmers who worked the fields.
During the 15 years since 2001, thousands of Americans have been killed. More maimed. Legs and arms lost. Faces disfigured. Civilians suffered also. Children included. More thousands of civilians than U.S. soldiers dead and injured.
Communities destroyed. Thousands left homeless.
Yet, the poppy fields remain undamaged.
The U.S. spent billions during the early war years to combat/eradicate the opium problem. Nothing worked.
Money played a big part in the failure of the eradication program. Money found its way into the pockets of Afghan governmental leaders. From President Hamid Karzi down. Much went into the pockets of the war lords who owned the poppy fields. Some into the pockets of U.S. persons in charge of getting a handle on the opium problem.
Corruption at every level.
In those rare occasions where some one was convicted of opium violations in Afghanistan, that person walked into jail through the front door. A bribe is paid. The wrongdoer walked out the back door the same day.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until the fall of 2001. The Taliban made billions from the opium trade. For reasons I cannot determine, the Taliban outlawed opium trade in mid 2000. Within one year, opium production was all but gone. Taliban had effectively destroyed Afghan’s opium business in one year.
The question arises if the Taliban could basically destroy the opium trade in one year, why has the U.S. not been able to do so?
The U.S. government bears significant responsibility for the heroin epidemic the nation is facing.
Bush 2 initiated an opium eradication program. It contracted with DynCorp. to do the work. In 2009, Obama’s administration failed to renew the contract with DynCorp. Since that time, the U.S. has had no eradication program.
Afghanistan has a small one for face-saving purposes. The Afghan eradication program in 2014 reduced the opium problem by 1.1 percent. No big deal. As of this year, Afghanistan is not continuing with the program or any other eradication program.
Heroin is cheap to buy on the streets of America. The cost of a bag of heroin is basically the same as the cost of a pack of cigarettes. In most instances, slightly cheaper.
Cigarettes are differently priced in each State. For whatever reason, the cost of one bag of heroin is similar to the cost of a pack of cigarettes in a particular state.
For example, a pack of cigarettes is roughly $7.75 in Baltimore. A bag of heroin roughly $5. In New York City, cigarettes run around $11-12 a pack. A bag of heroin $10.
Cost is affected also by quality and availability. Which does on occasion increase the price of a bag of heroin to $15-20.
Comparatively speaking, heroin is cheaper to buy than other street drugs.
The heroin trade is sophisticated. One example is that illegal heroin can be purchased over the internet. I tried to understand how. I could not. However, my research indicated it can and is being done safely by sellers and users. The heroin industry has its own computer geeks.
Tens of thousands were hooked on heroin in 2009. Today, millions.
In 2010, U.S. heroin deaths were 3,036. In 2014, 10,574.
2014 was a banner year. The number of deaths keeps going up.
Afghanistan opium production has also increased significantly. From 123,000 hectares in 2009 to 224.000 hectares in 2014. Two hundred twenty-four hectares equates to 6,400 tons of opium. A hectare is equivalent to 2.5 acres.
It is estimated there are 4,5 million heroin users in the U.S. today. 2.5 million are addicts. 2 million casual users.
With daily use, a person becomes physically addicted in 30 days.
The number of U.S. heroin deaths are difficult to estimate. One authority says one every 32 minutes. Another claims heroin deaths are difficult to trace via autopsy. Heroin breaks down in the body within hours to morphine. Coroners record the deaths as morphine prescription ones. It is estimated such coroner determinations result in heroin deaths being under reported by 100 percent.
The U.S. has failed to properly fund the heroin problem. The DEA, CIA and DOD are not provided sufficient funds to effectively seek out and eliminate heroin use.
The CIA uses the term “blowback.” Blowback is the “consequences at home of operations overseas.” The U.S. failure to renew the DynCorp. contract in 2009 a perfect example.
Another blowback was Obama’s desire when he took office to reduce the number of U.S. combatants in Afghanistan and the costs of the war generally.
Millions of addicts require billions of dollars to treat. The U.S. has yet to address the problem. Medical care for in patient treatment is estimated at $25 billion a year. Out patient, $10 billion a year.
At some point, the U.S. has to confront the medical needs head on.
Heroin is a hell of a problem! One we are not yet as a nation facing.
The primary campaigns reflect the failure to address the heroin problem. I do not recall any candidate speaking to the issue.