Pot is Out, Heroin is In

A GLOBAL TRADING SYSTEM: POT IS SO LAST YEAR, POPPIES ARE IN

Sierra Madre? Sierra Madre refers to one of many mountain ranges in Mexico, Central America, and the United States. So what does that have to do with anything.

With the wholesale price of marijuana falling, partially because of the decriminalization of the drug in certain parts of the US, Mexican drug farmers have begun to turn away from cannabis and have started filling their fields with, you guessed it, poppies. Poppies are heroin in its very first, au naturale form. Mexican heroin has been flooding the north as US authorities with perfect timing. The flood of heroin, came right as the prescription drug epidemic came to a screeching halt, following tightened control on synthetic opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin. As the pills became harder to get and more costly, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have tapped into the new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, VA., and Brattleboro, VT., where, until recently, needle use for street narcotics was unknown.

So yeah. The farmers are smart. The famers in the fabled “Golden Triangle,” of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced some of the countries biggest and most infamous gangsters, as well as their biggest marijuana harvests, say they have stopped growing pot because the price has collapsed in the past 5 years. It has gone from 100 dollars per kilo to less than 25. It just isn’t lucrative anymore, nor is it worth it.

So as any good business does, they tap into the consciousness of their consumers. Growers are now sowing their plots with opium poppies and large-scale heroin operations are turning up in places were they have never been seen before.
Let’s go back to December really quick: Police in Honduras found their first poppy farm in the country, raiding a sophisticated mountain greenhouse as big as a soccer field. That same week, soldiers and police in Guatemala came under attack by farmers armed with clubs and gas bombs, as they moved in to destroy 160 acres of poppy.

Along the border with Mexico, US authorities have seized 2,162 kilos of heroin. That is up from 367 kilos in 2007. So as the needle habit in the US makes a comeback, the Mexican farmers are more than happy to tap into a money making machine, known as your heroin addiction.

Although prescription painkillers remain more widely abused and account for far more fatal overdoses, heroin has been “moving all over the country and popping up in areas you didn’t see before,” said Carl Pike, a senior official in the Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. With its low price and easy portability, heroin has reached beyond New York, Chicago and other places where it has long been available. Rural areas of New England, Appalachia and the Midwest are being hit especially hard, with cities such as Portland, Maine; St. Louis;and Oklahoma City struggling to cope with a new generation of addicts. Pike and other DEA officials say the spread is the result of a shrewd marketing strategy developed by Mexican traffickers. They have targeted areas with the worst prescription pill abuse, sending heroin pushers to “set up right outside the methadone clinics,” one DEA agent said.

But can you blame them?

While Columbia is historically known as being the biggest source of heroin, Mexican output has surpassed it recently. Together the two, account for 90% of the heroin in the United States. As seizures of cocaine and marijuana along the border have fallen over the past several years, flows of methamphetamine and heroin have soared, federal statistics show.Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel continues to be the biggest provider of heroin to the United States, controlling as much as half of the North American market. Sinaloa boss Joaquín “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzmán grew up here in the mountains outside the municipal seat of Badiraguato, and his organization remains the dominant criminal power along the western border and west coast of Mexico.

This area though, all it knows is how to grow potent drug making plants. The entire region is a giant drug farm and has been for decades. “There’s no other way to make a living here,” said Silla, who has brought up his sons in the business, as his father did before him. Feeling confident after several years of good harvests, Silla and other families here planted more poppies than ever this year, but their radiant purple, red and white flowers were spotted by aerial surveillance last month. Mexican soldiers in pickups came roaring up the creek bed soon after and tore out the crop, chopping up irrigation hoses and searching homes for guns and cash.

A kilo of the raw, sticky opium sap that is used to make heroin sells wholesale for $1,500 in the northern Sierra Madre, nearly double its 2012 price, according to growers. With fertilizer and favorable weather, a well-tended poppy field can yield eight kilos of sap per acre, nearly enough to make a kilo of raw heroin. It’s a much better cut than the whole marijuana game.

The increased demand for heroin in the United States appears to be keeping wholesale prices high, even with abundant supply. The Mexican mountain folk in hamlets such as this one do not think of themselves as drug producers. They also plant corn, beans and other subsistence crops but say they could never earn a living from their small food plots. And they just can’t compete with the American marijuana growers. And with more and more of the American marijuana market being flooded with potent and cheaper pot, Mexican trafficking groups have reorganized.

When a product starts losing value, you diversify. It’s true of any farmer as well as business man. And that’s how they see it.

If anything, it just goes to show that the legalization of a drug does have an effect on cartel and gang involvement. Just not the one we were hoping for.

Frequent Marijuana Use in Teens and Young Adults Affects Brain Development

Using marijuana at least once a week can lead to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory and decreased IQ in teens and young adults, according to researchers at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

Krista Lisdahl, Director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, noted that 6.5 percent of high school seniors reported smoking marijuana daily, up from 2.4 percent in 1993. Among young adults ages 18 to 25, almost one-third said they had used marijuana in the last month, Lisdahl noted in a news release. She said a 2012 study found people who have become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood.

“It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, defined here as once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth,” Lisdahl wrote in a study she so-authored in the journal Current Addiction Reports.

Lisdahl noted that brain imaging studies of regular marijuana users have shown significant changes in their brain structure, especially among teenagers. USA Today reports Lisdahl said abnormalities in the brain’s gray matter, which is associated with intelligence, have been found in 16- to 19-year-olds who increased their marijuana use in the past year.

A study of more than 17,000 teenagers in Montana, co-authored by Bettina Friese of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in California, found people’s acceptance of legalized medical marijuana use appears to have an effect on teens’ perception of the drug’s risks. The study found marijuana smoking was more common in counties where larger numbers of people had voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2004. “People don’t perceive it as a very harmful substance, and these community norms translate to teens,” Friese said. “From the teen study, they do reference legalization: ‘If it was that bad a drug, they wouldn’t be trying to legalize it.’ “

Opioids drive continued increase in drug overdose deaths

Drug overdose deaths increase for 15th consecutive year

Drug overdose deaths increased for the 15th consecutive year in 2014, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings were published recently in a research letter, “Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2014,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
CDC’s analysis shows that 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2014, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009. This continues the steady rise in overdose deaths seen over the past 15 years, starting with 16,849 deaths in 1999. Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2014.
In 2014, nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651), confirming the predominant role opioid analgesics play in drug overdose deaths.
CDC researchers analyzed data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics 2010 multiple cause-of-death file, which is based on death certificates.
The researchers also found that drugs often prescribed for mental health conditions were involved in a significant number of pharmaceutical overdose deaths. Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) were involved in nearly 30 percent (6,497) of these deaths; antidepressants in 18 percent (3,889), and antipsychotic drugs in 6 percent (1,351). Deaths involving more than one drug or drug class are counted multiple times and therefore are not mutually exclusive.
“Patients with mental health or substance use disorders are at increased risk for nonmedical use and overdose from prescription painkillers as well as being prescribed high doses of these drugs,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Appropriate screening, identification, and clinical management by health care providers are essential parts of both behavioral health and chronic pain management.”
Additional steps are being taken at the national, state and local levels, as well as by non-governmental organizations, to help prevent overdoses from prescription drugs.
In particular, the federal government is:
• Tracking prescription drug overdose trends to better understand the epidemic.
• Encouraging the development of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations and products that treat abuse and overdose.
• Educating health care providers and the public about prescription drug abuse and overdose.
• Requiring that manufacturers of extended-release and long-acting opioids make educational programs available to prescribers about the risks and benefits of opioid therapy, choosing patients appropriately, managing and monitoring patients, and counseling patients on the safe use of these drugs.
• Using opioid labeling as a tool to inform prescribers and patients about the approved uses of these medications.
• Developing, evaluating and promoting programs and policies shown to prevent prescription drug abuse and overdose, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective pain treatment.
Promising steps that many states are taking include:
• Starting or improving prescription drug monitoring programs, which are electronic databases that track all prescriptions for opioids in the state.
• Using prescription drug monitoring programs, public insurance programs, and workers’ compensation data to identify improper prescribing of opioids.
• Setting up programs for public insurance programs, workers’ compensation programs, and state-run health plans that identify and address improper patient use of opioids.
• Passing, enforcing and evaluating pill mill, doctor shopping and other state laws to reduce prescription opioid abuse.
• Encouraging state licensing boards to take action against inappropriate prescribing.
• Increasing access to substance abuse treatment.

Prescription Drug Overdose in the United States: Fact Sheet

Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States.1 Every day in the United States, 114 people die as a result of drug overdose1, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs.2 Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.3
The Problem
Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.1
Drug overdose death rates have been rising steadily since 1992 with a 117% increase from 1999 to 2012 alone.1
In 2012, 33,175 (79.9%) of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional, 5,465 (13.2%) were of suicidal intent, 80 (0.2%) were homicides, and 2,782 (6.7%) were of undetermined intent.1
In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals.2
Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (18 or younger) were seen in EDs each year because of medication overdose (excluding self-harm, abuse and recreational drug use).4
Among children under age 6, pharmaceuticals account for about 40% of all exposures reported to poison centers.5
Most Common Drugs Involved in Overdoses
In 2012, of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,114 (53%) were related to pharmaceuticals.6
Of the 22,114 deaths relating to pharmaceutical overdose in 2012, 16,007 (72%) involved opioid analgesics (also called opioid pain relievers or prescription painkillers), and 6,524 (30%) involved benzodiazepines.6 (Some deaths include more than one type of drug.)
In 2011, about 1.4 million ED visits involved the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. Among those ED visits, 501,207 visits were related to anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, and 420,040 visits were related to opioid analgesics.2
Benzodiazepines are frequently found among people treated in EDs for misusing or abusing drugs.2 People who died of drug overdoses often had a combination of benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics in their bodies.6
259 million | Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. CDC Vital Signs www.cdc.gov/VitalSignsCosts
In the United States, prescription opioid abuse costs were about $55.7 billion in 2007.7 Of this amount, 46% was attributable to workplace costs (e.g., lost productivity), 45% to healthcare costs (e.g., abuse treatment), and 9% to criminal justice costs.7
Risk Factors for Drug Overdose
Among those who died from drug overdose in 2012:
Men were 59% more likely than women to die;
Whites had the highest death rate, followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives and then blacks;
The highest death rate was among people 45-49 years of age; and
The lowest death rates were among children less than 15 years old because they do not abuse drugs as frequently as older people.1
Among people who misused or abused drugs and received treatment in emergency departments in 2011:
56% were males;
82% were people 21 or older.2

Drug Addiction Seen as ‘Moral Failing,’ Survey Finds

People with drug addiction are much more likely to face stigma than those with mental illness because they’re seen as having a “moral failing,” according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 700 people across the United States also found that the public is less likely to approve of insurance, housing and employment policies meant to help people with drug addiction.

The study results suggest that many people consider drug addiction a personal vice rather than a treatable medical condition, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers.

“While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition,” study leader Colleen Barry, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management, said in a Hopkins news release.

“In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one’s struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal,” she added.

The survey revealed that only 22 percent of people would be willing to work closely on a job with someone with a drug addiction, while 62 percent said they would do so with a person with a mental illness.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said employers should be able to refuse to employ people with a drug addiction, while 25 percent said the same about people with a mental illness. Forty-three percent of respondents said people with drug addiction should not be given the same health insurance benefits as the general public, while 21 percent felt the same about those with mental illness.

About 30 percent of respondents believed that recovery from either drug addiction or mental illness is impossible, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.

“The more shame associated with drug addiction, the less likely we as a community will be in a position to change attitudes and get people the help they need,” study co-author Beth McGinty, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at Hopkins, said in the news release.

“If you can educate the public that these are treatable conditions, we will see higher levels of support for policy changes that benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction,” she added.

How Bad is Heroin Use in the United States? The Facts

We have been hearing about heroin all over the United States, but never in one nice big number. Everything reads based on city or state. What we want to take a look at is how bad the heroin use really is across the board.

Here are the numbers on heroin use in the US. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: In 2012 about 669,000 Americans reported using heroin the past year. Which if I know anything about heroin, means they are probably addicted, or at least the majority are. There are very few individuals who only use heroin once.

This number, 669,000 is rising and has been since 2009. The “trend” appears to be driven by young adults, aged 18-25. There has been the biggest increase in use among those in this age group. Along with that the number of people using heroin for the first time is appallingly high. 156,000 people started using heroin in 2012 and probably still are. That number is double the number of people in 2006 who tried it for the first time.

And while these numbers are rising steadily, the numbers are actually declining for those aged 12-17. In the past year, heroin use among the Nations 8th, 10th and, 12th graders is at its lowest levels in the history of the survey. Less than 1% of those surveyed in all grades had tried heroin in 2013. Which has been a steady decline since 2005.

So what about addiction? Well, the number of people meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition criteria for dependence or abuse of heroin doubled from 214,000 in 2002, to 467,000 in 2012. Data on what these numbers look like now and where these numbers reach hasn’t been released yet.

The impact of heroin use is huge. It is identified as being one of the biggest drug issues across several local regions from coast to coast. The rising harm associated with heroin use at the community level was presented in a report produced by the NIDA Community Epidemiology Work Group. The CEWG is comprised of researchers in areas across the United states and selected foreign countries that provide community level surveillance of drug abuse and its consequences or emerging trends. And heroin is taking the cake right now.

Heroin use is no longer found only urban areas. Heroin use in the US has spread into suburban and rural communities near Chicago and St. Louis. Heroin use is also on the rise among young adults in the areas. Individuals in the young adult age range, 18-25, are seeking treatment for heroin addiction or heroin abuse more now too. The numbers increased from about 11% in 2008 to 26% in the first half of 2012.