28 Oct Mexican Drug Cartels Fueling, Exploiting America’s Heroin Epidemic
No outside force can impose illegal drugs on reluctant consumers. Drug dealers set up intricate networks to deliver supplies to areas that promise high profit margins, but perpetual demand is what allows them to benefit so handsomely from the misery of others. Put 1,000 drug peddlers in prison and a thousand more will rush in to take their place, which is one reason so many view the war on drugs as a futile enterprise.
And criminalizing drugs ultimately empowers some of the most vicious, immoral and psychotic actors found anywhere on the face of the earth. The drug trade has always been marked by incessant bloodshed — its operators reach the peak of success by scrambling to the top of a mountain of dead bodies. Over time, this problem only seems to get worse, as each new generation of drug gangs tries to outdo their forerunners in the category of depravation.
In line with this process of devolution, the last decade in the Americas has been marked by the rise to power of the Mexican drug cartels. Since rival drug groups first began their paramilitary-style turf wars against each other and against the police, 50,000 to 100,000 Mexican citizens have lost their lives as a result of this senseless and pathological behavior.
In order to protect and expand their drug transport networks, these black market cabals have corrupted the police and the government, terrorized the populace and colonized large swaths of the Mexican countryside. The potential for billions of dollars in profits is what drives the extreme hyper-violence that Mexican drug gangs have become infamous for—and it is the drug consuming proclivities of their loyal customers in North American markets that makes these ill-gotten gains possible.
Cartels Turn to Heroin
Up until now, marijuana and cocaine have been the substances of choice for cartels looking to exploit the voracious appetites of North American drug aficionados. But marijuana legalization in the U.S., while still somewhat restricted in scope, has already had a negative impact on the financial well-being of the cartels. Meanwhile, cocaine use has flat-lined and does not appear poised to make a big comeback anytime soon. Consequently, the search for new products to market has accelerated, and as heroin use has taken off in the U.S., the Mexican drug cartels have pounced with the greedy ferocity of a rabid jaguar, ready to supply all the smack Americans can handle.
Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which has been described as the world’s most powerful criminal organization by U.S. government authorities, imports more drugs into the United States than any other drug syndicate. Besides their drug interests, the Sinaloa group is also deeply involved in money laundering, human trafficking, the illegal export of armaments and a whole host of other unsavory activities. The Sinaloans have reached the pinnacle of power at least in part because of their willingness to sell out their competitors to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. But it is their unrestrained capacity for extreme violence that has kept their empire growing and allowed them to achieve such a lofty status in the highly competitive criminal underworld.
In the past, much of the heroin that entered the United States came from Southeast Asia, but now more than 90 percent of it is grown in Mexico or South America. About 80 percent of the heroin currently offered for sale on American soil can be traced to a Sinaloa source, which is a testament to how quickly this cartel has adjusted its production and distribution strategies in response to an evolving marketplace. Between 2005 and 2009, heroin production in Mexico rose by 600 percent, so it appears that land suitable for poppy production is available in abundance. Of course all drug producers know from the beginning that law enforcement agencies will intercept a certain percentage of the drugs they attempt to smuggle into the U.S., but for powerful cartels like the Sinaloa group, this activity is little more than a nuisance and doesn’t affect their profit margin in the slightest.
While they are primarily a Mexican operation, it would be a mistake to conclude the Sinaloa Cartel is confining its “boots on the ground” activities to its home country. Their thugs and functionaries have a direct presence on the ground in U.S. territory, and law enforcement agencies have uncovered evidence to suggest they are making a concerted effort to move into areas known to have high rates of prescription painkiller abuse. This is not surprising, since drug dealers are perfectly aware that prescription opioid abuse is fueling the rise in heroin abuse: 80 percent of recent heroin users started out on prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, while Americans between the ages of 12 and 49 who misuse these drugs are 19 times more likely to eventually try heroin than others in the same age group. So far, less than 4 percent of opioid pill addicts have switched over to heroin, so the demand for heroin could skyrocket in the near future if this number rises substantially—and drug dealers everywhere are salivating at the thought of it.
Enabling the Evil of Addiction
It is a reality many North American drug addicts don’t want to face, because the implications are ugly. But in addition to damaging themselves and their families with their prolific substance abuse, most are putting money in the pockets of ruthless gangsters responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Mexican civilians, police officers and other public officials taking a stand against the drug trade.
Drug users are unwitting partners in the violent game the Mexican drug cartels have been playing. This is yet another reason people abusing illegal drugs should seek treatment for their addictions, as the current situation forces them to rely on murderers and maniacs to supply them with the junk they need to support their horrible habits. And even those whose drug use is more casual should be honest with themselves about where the money they spend will actually be going, and about whom it will be making rich.
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