Afghanistan, Mexico, and Prescription Drugs

Farmers in Afghanistan, Farmers and Drug Cartels in Mexico, and prescription drugs manufacturers have unwittingly combined forces to contribute to the death of thousands of Americans.

Part I: Prescription Drugs Manufacturers

Purdue Pharma LP and Abbott Laboratories Inc. have been facing intense scrutiny in recent years as a result of the havoc wreaked throughout the US as a result of their addictive medication OxyContin.

OxyContin is an extremely addictive narcotic medication that is also known as “legal heroin.”  The substance has flooded the United States where it is widely abused and not just by young people who are of high school and college age.

The write-up we did about the OxyContin Express Documentary on Vanguard Television will provide insight to how this substance has proliferated so widely due to irresponsible pharmacies and the individuals who take the drug without suspecting how addictive it can be.

OxyContin Leads Directly to Heroin Overdose

OxyContin might be legal and available via prescription for some legitimate medical patients, but it is expensive and difficult to obtain in large quantities for the illicit user who has become physically and mentally addicted to the “high” of this opiate drug.

Clever drug dealers have moved into areas where OxyContin use is widespread and struck a booming business selling heroin to OxyContin addicted individuals.  The heroin is manufactured in a variety of places like Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan (and other parts of Asia) and Mexico (and other parts of Latin America).

Unregulated heroin varies in purity and strength and is very addictive.  The prices of heroin have been at an all-time low.  The result is a frightening wave of addiction and overdose to men and women of all ages.  Teens and twenty-somethings have been the hardest hit by the wave of overdoses in the last 3 years.  Also unique about recent opiate overdose deaths is that due to the fact that OxyContin is an expensive brand-name prescription drug, many of the users who become addicted to it and then gravitate to heroin are in middle class and upper-class suburbs.

Going after the Prescription Drug Manufacturers

There has predictably been a backlash against the manufacturers of OxyContin.  A plaintiffs group in Washington, D.C., filed a $5.2 billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP and Abbott Laboratories Inc., charging the drug companies with allegedly failing to warn patients about how addictive OxyContin is.

There are also numerous grassroots campaigns that have sprung up to warn potential victims of opiate addiction about OxyContin specifically.  The website is a site started by and supported by many people who’ve had a relative overdose either on OxyContin or a related drug.  The website collects signatures with the goal of getting legislation passed that will ban OxyContin.

There are more players involved in this deadly cycle of OxyContin turned into heroin overdose.  Parts II and III of this series will focus on the manufacturers and dealers of the heroin that replaces OxyContin for so many addicted Americans.

Getting Help

There is no longer time to “wait and see” if you know someone who may be abusing drugs like OxyContin.  OxyContin and all opiates are potentially fatal with every use.  If you are concerned about someone (or are yourself chemically dependent on opiates) please do not wait until tomorrow when it may be too late.  Pick up the phone today and call Sober Living by the Sea for a free and confidential discussion about you or your loved one’s drug use.

Part II – Mexican Farmers and Xalisco Drug Entrepreneurs

A lot of the black tar heroin that makes into the United States comes from a short distance away  – in Xalisco, Mexico.

Mexico is also the biggest gateway for heroin from Afghanistan and other parts of Asia and Africa to enter the United States. But recent years has shown the appetite of the youth in the U.S. grow exponentially for heroin.  This growth in demand is from the upper and middle class communities in addition to the more traditional urban areas where heroin has been frequently abused.  This increase in heroin use can also be tied to the prescription drug industry and the prevalence of OxyContin that is obtained and used by people who it was not intended for. Inevitably  farmers from poor areas in Mexico have started production of this lucrative cash crop.

A recent L.A. Times story exposed the trend of young ambitious drug traffickers from Xalisco who are infiltrating the United States with a “heroin delivery” business that sees them fulfilling orders by taking phone orders and arranging dropoffs with customers.

Customer service is a concept that apparently has been adopted by these heroin pushers as they have taken a page out of Domino’s playbook and brought the product to the doorstep of their customers.  They also do follow up quality control calls and rewards for referred customers.

Prices Go Down, Overdoses Go Up

Along with the clever business model, the profits to be made have created enough competition to drive prices down – a phenomenon that spells death for many young people (and people of all ages) in the U.S.

Black tar heroin from Mexico has proliferated the entire country. This drug delivery enterprise has spread to towns such as Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.  The influence of these “Xalisco Boys” is felt particularly strongly in certain areas where OxyContin is popular.

The OxyContin Connection

It is logical that wherever OxyContin has a hold on people the heroin trade is sure to follow.   This phenomenon has been well documented in our blog (see the OxyContin Express entry) Ohio has been very hard hit by the popularity and availability of heroin with 15,000 addicts seeking treatment at state funded centers in 2008. The Appalachian Mountains (where OxyContin is known as “hillbilly heroin”) and the Rust Belt have been fruitful targets for heroin syndicates.

The LA Times article reports that the Xalisco dealers target white consumers because they are safer and more profitable to deal to.   Xalisco dealers also recruit customers and dealers out of rehabs and addiction recovery clinics.

Cracking Down on the Xalisco Heroin Trade

Federal Narcotics agents have been targeting and cracking down on the Xalisco heroin delivery syndicates but with the many layers of  underlings and the decentralized nature of the business, the system is well protected against law enforcement.

The dealers at the street level carry the drug in balloons in their mouth.  Addicts dial a number and place their order to 3rd party who relays the information to the street level dealer.  This is a very insulated system that makes it difficult to get any real charges or leverage on the multi tiered crime syndicate.

The systematic enterprise spread through cities like Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Honolulu and others.

Recent years has seen the attention of DEA agents move south into Xalisco county to try and address the influx of heroin at the source.  Poor sugar cane workers are willing participants in the opium farming and processing that leads to the creation of black tar heroin.  The Xalisco entrepreneurs were known to cooperate with the Areallano-Felix drug cartel and pay large sums for “permission” to participate in the lucrative trade.

Phone taps provide a starting point for U.S. authorities to move south of the border and target the ringleaders in Xalisco. There are many various “ranchos” that grow the poppies and they operate independently.  Many of the law enforcement efforts to crack down and in Mexico do not lead to successful arrests and those that do face the inevitability of another farmer stepping in to replace the supply of the incarcerated party.

Facing the Heroin Epidemic at Home

It is up to the families and loved ones of at risk individuals in the United States to begin educating themselves on how to confront the heroin epidemic.  There are a myriad of steps that you can take to help stem this tide.  A simple one is to carefully monitor the prescription medication that is kept in the home. Another step is to actually discuss drugs with teens who are entering the prime experimentation phase (during and after high school). Finally, if you think that you know someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol, there are many ways to start the conversation and there are many people who can help (like an interventionist) if you feel like a loved one is out of control.  For more information about drug treatment and prevention call Sober Living by the Sea’s team of admissions counselors.

Part III: The Taliban in Afghanistan – Heroin Manufacturing Empire

There are a variety of factors which have created a “perfect storm” which has lead to the death of thousands of Americans due to heroin overdose. There factors seem disparate at face value: the prescription drug addiction epidemic, the pharmaceutical industry’s creation of potent addictive drugs like OxyContin, the Mexican farming industry’s desperation to turn a profit, and in this segment: the geopolitical climate affecting heroin creation in Afghanistan.

It is estimated that 90% of the world’s heroin originates in Afghanistan.  This is a disturbing figure because we have seen how the drug has ravaged the United States in recent years.  Heroin addiction has been a problem in the U.S. for decades but recently is reaching a fever pitch due to the OxyContin addiction epidemic and its creation of opiate addicted people who transfer their addiction to cheaper and easier to obtain illegal heroin.

Taliban profits off of the death of Americans

What an effective mechanism this heroin trade has become for the most famous anti American group in the world – the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Not only do they profit directly from the creation and sale of opium within Afghanistan but the product ends up killing heroin users in the United States (and around the world) and destroying families in the country they have declared jihad against.

It has been documented in books like Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda that heroin is the economic backbone of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  Afghanistan has problems with corruption in its official ranks.  In this poverty ridden environment, the money that opium and heroin generate is ample to buy off the police who are in charge of cracking down on opium production.

Afghanistan is a large country that has been overproducing opium and heroin in recent years which has led to the drug being available on the streets of America for an all time low cost.  Drug traffickers in Afghanistan are doing more production of refined morphine and heroin than past years when raw opium would be sent to Pakistan, Asia, and other parts of the world to be processed into refined heroin.

Prescription Drug Industry’s Unwitting Contribution to the Taliban

Who would have thought that Purdue Pharma’s bringing of OxyContin to market would have led to a bolstering of the Taliban’s primary source of income?  OxyContin is one of many narcotic painkillers that is addictive, but it’s prevalence in society as the preferred drug of abuse by opioid addicted individuals causes it to be the “face” of what is wrong with the prescription medication industry.

Who would have thought that Purdue Pharma’s bringing of OxyContin to market would have led to a bolstering of the Taliban’s primary source of income?

We have often documented on our blog the destructive path that OxyContin has woven through our society so there is no reason to recap it here. Suffice to say that in almost 25 years of treating addiction, the OxyContin epidemic has led to more overdoses than the crystal methamphetamine epidemic and crack cocaine epidemic combined.

Our society’s growing experimentation with and addiction to OxyContin and other prescription drugs is not only destroying lives but putting money into the coffers of those who would like nothing more than to do so.

Confronting Heroin Addiction Here in the United States

Sadly, addiction is a reality for millions of Americans.  If you care about someone who is addicted to heroin (or any drug), you are not alone.  You may be confused about what to do next, but there are paths to recovery that have been laid out by professionals at addiction treatment centers like Sober Living by the Sea.  For more information about drug treatment and prevention call our team of admissions counselors.

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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