Afghanistan Claims Title Of World’s Largest Heroin Producer
As 18,000 American troops continue to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, a new threat to global security rears its ugly head: the country’s growing drug trade.
“Afghanistan has become the world’s largest exporter of heroin,” says Stephen Della Valle, author of the new addiction and recovery memoir Rising Above the Influence. “Nearly sixty percent of their gross national product comes from sales of the drug, which may also be funding the country’s reconstruction—even more so than any foreign aid they’re being given.”
Fields of opium poppies have long grown in almost every province of Afghanistan, but only in the last twenty-five years have they developed into the country’s biggest cash crop. Last year, Afghan “farmers” cultivated a half million acres and produced 4,000 tons of opium, much of which was made into 400 tons of morphine and heroin.
“Ninety-two percent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan these days,” notes Mr. Della Valle. “They produce more heroin than Colombia produces cocaine, and that’s really saying something.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 3.1 million Americans over the age of twelve reported using heroin at least once in their lifetimes.
While the people of Afghanistan are making $3 billion a year from their sales of the drug, the addicts themselves are suffering from some of heroin’s most deadly side effects, including:
· Collapsed veins
· Infection of the heart lining and valves
· Liver disease
· Increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases
“With the overthrow of the Taliban,” says Mr. Della Valle, “Afghanistan’s political and economic situation surely improved. But the US’ vow to end drug production in that country has so far come to nothing. The country’s role in the worldwide addiction epidemic remains as serious as ever.”
Stephen Della Valle is president of the board of directors at Turning Point rehabilitation center in Verona, New Jersey. Currently celebrating twenty years of sobriety, he lives in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, with his wife, Donna. He has three children.
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