Sunday, September 27, 2009

Russian Heroin Addiction “Spreads Like Wildfire”

Is defoliating Afghanistan the answer?

Last week, both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times declared that heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions in Russia. However, Soviet drug enforcement officials have a plan: They have called on the United States to defoliate Afghanistan.

For years now, Russia has been flooded with cheap opium from Afghanistan, smuggled in through Tajikistan and other countries along Russia’s “virtual borders” in Central Asia. What began as a trickle of addicted Russian soldiers during the Afghan war in the 1980s has reached epidemic proportions, Russian officials maintain.

“It’s a catastrophe for us,” a Moscow drug addiction specialist told the Los Angeles Times in an article by Megan K. Stack. “We were completely unprepared for this turn of events.” The Times article notes that the flood of cheap heroin has largely been met with “widespread public ignorance of the risks and symptoms of addiction, lingering shame and stigma, and muddled government efforts at treatment.”

To cap things off, methadone is illegal in Russia.

The New York Times reported in an article by Ellen Barry that Afghan poppy cultivation had become a diplomatic sore point between Moscow and Washington. “I would call on the United States to use defoliation from the air,” said Viktor P. Ivanov, Russia’s Drug Czar, so to speak. “There are people who support this method in the United States. The debate is going on, which is important.”

Russian authorities estimate that 30,000 young Russians dies each year from drug use, predominately Afghan heroin. Although the nation’s opium crop has shrunk in recent years, “Afghanistan still produces more opium than the worldwide market can absorb,” according to Ellen Barry. The reserve may have grown to 10,000 tons, representing a two-year world supply, according to a recent United Nations report.

Years earlier, officials in the Bush administration had briefly investigated an aerial spraying program in Afghanistan, but backed off amid fears that the move would stoke anti-American anger by depriving farmers of their livelihood and increasing the likelihood that they would join the insurgents. The U.S. undertook a largely ineffective manual eradication campaign, and the Obama administration has thus far focused efforts on interdiction and the cultivation of alternative crops, according to the New York Times report.

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Adam Alexander Baxter said...

So, are we having a War on Plants now?

Dirk Hanson said...

Well put. I think we have moved beyond the defoliation thing. At least I hope so.

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