The Real Afghanistan Surge is in Heroin Production and Tripled Opium Cultivation since the US military arrived/ UN and US Government documents

By Meryl Nass, M.D.  Dr. Nass is  a board-certified internist and a biological warfare epidemiologist and expert in anthrax. Nass publishes Anthrax Vaccine.

Recently I worked in another Maine city and was astonished at the number of patients I encountered who were using heroin.  I had never seen anything like it, during a lifetime practicing medicine. In New Hampshire, it was said, deaths from heroin now exceed deaths from car accidents.  Nationwide, CDC noted, “Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013.”  Massachusetts (population under 7 million) had 1,000 deaths related to (all) opioids in 2014,the highest ever recorded.

I’ve heard stories on NPR about insufficient state funding of heroin treatment facilities. I’ve heard about plans to make Narcan injections available to iv drug users, for overdoses. Another popular angle I’ve seen repeated multiple times (and one currently pushed by the US Drug Enforcement Agency) claims prescription narcotics became harder to get, so users switched to heroin, instead.

However, the DOJ-DEA 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary notes that cocaine availability “remains stable at historically low levels throughout most domestic markets along the East Coast.”  So users are switching to heroin, but not switching to cocaine from prescription narcotics. Hmmm. Might this be because we have no large military-CIA presence currently in cocaine-trafficking areas, as we did during the 1980s Contra war in Nicaragua, when cocaine use was at high levels? (Coca leaves are only grown in Latin America.) According to a 2010 UN document“Based on seizure figures, it appears that cocaine markets grew most dramatically during the 1980s, when the amounts seized increased by more than 40% per year”.  (See this 1987 Senate hearing and this for evidence of CIA and State Dept. connivance with cocaine trafficking by the Contras.)

You can frame stories about the current heroin problem in many ways.  But the real heroin story isn’t being discussed–which is that since the US military entered Afghanistan in 2001, its opium production doubled, per the UN Afghanistan Opium Survey, 2014 , p.34.  The area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan tripled. And the resulting heroin appears to more easily make its way deep into our rural, as well as urban communities. The graph below is from the 2014 UN Opium Survey:

The world supply of opium increased 5-fold between 1980 and 2010according to the UN.“Afghanistan account[s] for around 90% of global illicit opium production in recent years. By itself, Afghanistan provides 85% of the estimated global heroin and morphine supply, a near monopoly.”(see pp 37-38). 

“The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, sustaining criminal networks, and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups,” John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in an October 2014 letter to the heads of the Departments of Defense, State and Justice, which have all played major roles in the failed drug intervention effort. “Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counter-narcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013.”

Despite the (now) US $8.4 billion spent to defeat this trade, it just keeps growing.  The costs of US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan total “$110 billion, after adjusting for inflation, [which] exceeds the value of the entire Marshall Plan effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II” according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, speaking in May 2015.

The Special Inspector General noted elsewhere that, US reconstruction projects, particularly those devoted to “improved irrigation, roads, and agricultural assistance” were probably leading to the explosion in opium cultivation.

Only 1.2% of the acreage used for Afghan opium production (est. 224,000 hectares) was eradicated in 2014, according to the UN. Also according to the UN, Burma is the world’s second largest producer of opium, currently growing only about 10% as much as Afghanistan. But Mexico has been increasing production.

According to the UN World Drug Report, in the 1990’s Afghanistan supplied opium that was converted into half the world’s heroin production.  By 2010, it supplied 90% of the total.

But the DEAWhite House and other official US sources claim that US heroin derives almost entirely (96%) from Latin American opium (based on seizures of shipments); the DEA in 2014 claimed that Latin America was the source for the vast majority of US heroin, with southwest Asia (i.e., Afghanistan) accounting for only 4% of US heroin in 2012.

This is highly unlikely.  In 2008, the UN estimated that the US and Canada accounted for 13% of global heroin use.  With about 95% of global heroin derived from Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand and Laos, Latin America (mainly Mexico with a small amount from Colombia) does not produce enough to supply the majority of US heroin, let alone 96%. In fact, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy undercuts this claim when it says Mexico had 10,500 hectares under poppy cultivation in 2012, while Afghanistan alone had 154,000 hectares in 2012 and 224,000 hectares in 2014, per UN estimates.

This DEA claim, based on heroin interdiction, suggests a different explanation.  Perhaps heroin shipments from Afghanistan are at lower risk of being seized than heroin coming from Latin America. Might some be entering through government channels, when so much materiel and so many personnel (soldiers, aid workers, diplomats and contractors) fly directly between the US and Afghanistan?

Putting aside the issue of the provenance of the US heroin supply for the moment, surely we can look at heroin as we would any other global commodity.

Congruent with the US occupation of Afghanistan, Afghanistan expanded its opium production, and the global supply of heroin increased dramatically. The price dropped as a result. New buyers entered the market. And the US now has several hundred thousand new addicts.  Russia and Europe have even more. The resulting social problems are hugely tragic and hugely costly for millions of families, and for our societies as a whole.

If we start being honest about why there is a major heroin epidemic, maybe we can get serious about solving the problem with meaningful eradication and interdiction. Aerial spraying of crops with herbicides or similar methods has been prohibited in Afghanistan, but it works. In 2014, Britain’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan (2010-2012) called for legalization and regulation of illicit drugs as one means of attacking the problem.

Looking beyond the Mexican border for heroin, and inspecting all flights from southwest Asia, including military and CIA flights, could have a large impact on supply as well.

Serious measures are needed.  Total world production of opiates always gets consumed: historically, the market for opiates has been extremely elastic.  Land under poppy cultivation (in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle and Mexico) continues to increase. Without meaningful efforts to reduce opium production and entry of narcotics into the US, the epidemic of heroin addiction may become a considerably bigger problem than it is today.

UPDATE:  From the Sept 7 Wall Street Journal, we learn that a US “friendly fire” airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Sept 6 “hit a 30 member elite counternarcotics police unit as they were on a mission…

At least 11 died in “one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in the country in recent years.Here is the Reuters story. The US denied the strike in Helmand province, but admitted to airstrikes in the adjacent province of Kandahar. According to the Guardian, “The US is the only member of the NATO coalition known to have carried out bombing raids in Afghanistan this year.” The AP/WaPo on 9/8/15 reported that, “Brigadier General Shoffner [Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications in Afghanistan] said ‘based on information we received [on 9/8], we feel it is prudent to investigate the airstrike our forces conducted in Kandahar.’

The airstrike killed approximately as many people as died in counternarcotics efforts in all Afghanistan throughout 2014.

I will have more to say about the subject of heroin in a later post.

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  • hyperbola

    The real story is who has been running narcotrafficking for centuries.

    The Jewish Opium Trade and Britain

    London used to be full of opium dens in the 19th century and the “british” government has been protecting their corrupt narcotrafficking banks ever since.

    Now that the sect runs “our” government, it is no surpise that “we” also protect the sect`s narcotrafficking.

    Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail

    The irony is that we fought our war of independence against this same “city of london” sect. Until we shut down the center of their corruption in our country,

    The Federal Reserve Cartel: The Eight Families

    and jail the criminals, we will not recover our democracy. Our current president of the federal reserve is married to an “advisor” to a narcotrafficking bank.

    • DiscipleofYahushua

      Opium Wars Redux. The US Citizenry is under attack by these luciferian criminals just like China was.

    • nilbud

      Hyperdope your pathetic mindless stupidity is boring. Your ignorance and delusional lies are pathetic.

  • Jan 9, 2015 Opium Production in Afghanistan Sets Record – America Soldiers Helping Heroin Production.

    Mar 29, 2010 US Soldiers guarding opium in Afghanistan

    December 3, 1993 The CIA Drug ConnectionIs as Old as the Agency

    George H.W. Bush was C.I.A.!



  • gamesjon

    “Without meaningful efforts to reduce opium production and entry of
    narcotics into the US, the epidemic of heroin addiction may become a
    considerably bigger problem than it is today.”

    I mean the most obvious and meaningful action the United States government could take if it wanted to do anything about would be to stop facilitating the cultivation in collaboration with the violent groups around the world who do most of it, stop trafficking it here and other places as well… or basically why don’t you try to stop providing it. The CIA and government have been intimately involved in the vast majority of the global trafficking of illegal narcotics since it’s deals back during the end of WWII creating the famous “French Connection”. Every single step since then up to Afghanistan for heroin again like the 80s and deals to protect the Sinaloa Cartel if they provided information on their rivals. Drugs aren’t (nearly as serious of an issue as they are portrayed in my view) but whatever problem they are it isn’t in spite of the United State’s actions it is because of the United State’s actions. thus by simply not doing them anymore one could probably eliminate 95% of whatever problem they are seen to be overnight.

  • Brockland A.T.

    According to this, the CIA hijacked the war on drugs for itself a long time ago.

    Narcotic drugs are apparently a strategic resource; perhaps a lesson learned from the Opium Wars.

  • Greg Burton

    The War on Drugs: creating a burgeoning industry of privately run prisons.

  • LindengoneSalem

    Why are people jumping from prescription painkillers to heroin and not cocaine? er, because cocaine is not an opiate. (The subject is opiate addiction, btw). Cocaine is also not a pain-killer, but a mood elevator. Also, the point of going from pills to heroin is primarily to save money. $30 pills get replaced with $6 twists. Cocaine itself is more expensive than the pills, so, you know. I’m sorry, I’ll let you get back to your little “the Man is responsible for all my failings,” pity party.

  • Let us be real, among truth, and get things right. In 2001 Afghan actually dropped to 0% production over and under (legal & Illegal) with the primer reason due to the Taliban communicating to local opium farmers that it was against their core beliefs, that their crops were tearing apart lives and families worldwide, and that they were now doing the same to lives and families of Afghan; it was time to stop farming opium. The farmers listened, production went to zero.

    Later that year (2001) US Forces go to war looking for Bin Laden in Afghan, and what do you know, the surge for opium production started right back up without loosing a step. Soldiers aren’t the type to complain, but I have had every type of soldier from every force we have come through my house and share. As a combat veteran my self many would simply want to touch bases with me and let go of some things they couldn’t let go elsewhere. I will just say one force in particular became suspect and felt violated by having to guard opium crops very early on in this war. Certain circles have even suggested that Tillman was perhaps made an early example of what happens when a soldier doesn’t agree with his mission, then again, it could be just conspiracy.

    Since late 2001 Afghan opium production went from 0% supply, to supplying more than the just the western hemisphere with 98% of their over under opium needs, from vicodin to oxy to heroin. Current estimates put Afghan at closing in on 300,000 hectares, or, 741316.144 acres. And who might you think has had control of the borders and maritime routes in and out of Afghan?

    Additionally, it appears that rather large swaths of the US so called heroin markets are actually flooded by a synthetic heroin that is supposedly extracted from a certain pain patch, the result is called fentanyl. A drug 30x more potent than heroin but does not have an effect of euphoria on the user. With Afghan continuing to supply more and more of their natural stuff, and less and less natural stuff showing up makes a few begin to wonder.

    Besides the fact that we have an entire nation addicted to opioid’s, historically, nations have been known to horde opium if they have some advanced knowledge of a whole lot of pain coming down in the future of their nation and people.

    I could be completely off base as per this last part, but I am sure that if you have a basic vocabulary, the desire to learn or do something, and google, that there is nothing you cannot learn or do.

    Love, Light and Power,

    • Punkrockkitty

      Powerful. Much respect to you.

  • Douglas Smith

    Do you really think the occupation of Afghanistan is the cause of the surge in opium production? It’s completely demand-driven, by the epidemic of heroin addiction primarily in the Under 30 demographic. They’re not suddenly producing more heroin to spite US invasion – they’re shipping more heroin worldwide because they can make profit from the huge spike in demand. Correlation does not equal causation, but nice try.

  • Joe Mauro

    The russians burned the same fields we cultivated for the Karzai family

  • Megan

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this knowledge. I hope that people start waking up and realizing what’s going on.