The Opium Crisis

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thearciniega.com/blog/wp-includes/rehamot/8501.php This shift, together with the constant risk of crop destruction by state forces and other losses caused by hail storms, sudden frosts or plagues of insects, encouraged villagers to grow poppies during the dry season as well as the rainy season, which required investment in small-scale irrigation infrastructure. They also tried to increase their yields by investing in commercial fertilizers and pesticides. The poppies continued to be grown on small swidden plots, usually less than a hectare in size.

But these were located in ever more remote, rugged areas far from the center of the community and thus from the police and soldiers who periodically arrived there in search of illicit crops. Due to the practicalities of setting up gravity-fed irrigation systems, these plots are usually located close to streams; and given that the streams located furthest from the center of Village A often mark its boundaries with lands belonging to neighboring villages, the rise in irrigated poppy cultivation has exacerbated inter-communal territorial conflicts, sometimes resulting in outbreaks of violence which became more severe as more local people gained access to automatic weapons.

However, the sale of opium to a select few local middlemen — increasingly villagers who had become friends with members of DTOs in prison, rather than teachers — enabled the people of Village A to resist the migratory pressures faced by peasants in most of rural Mexico. It also allowed them to continue financing and taking part in the ceremonies around which communal political and religious life revolves, helping them to withstand the acculturative pressures emanating from mainstream, mestizo Mexican society.

This price remained stable into late In this period, a single poppy plant was reported to produce between g of raw opium. Around 10 plants could be planted per square meter. Thus, a single hectare plot gave a typical opium producer in Village A between kgs of opium per season, assuming their harvests were not negatively affected by army raids, hailstorms, frosts, disease or insect attacks. This ate into local profits, and forced villagers to spend ever more time supervising poppy plots in remote areas, obstructing their ability to simultaneously cultivate corn, beans and other traditional subsistence crops in plots closer to the village.

And as merchants tried to take advantage of the increasing monetization of the local economy by importing ever larger quantities of commercially-produced alcohol into the village, social problems related to excessive drinking — namely chronic alcoholism, domestic abuse and drunken, often lethal violence between heavily-armed young men — climbed exponentially. But those who avoided arrest, murder, or alcohol-induced illness continued to benefit from a steady growth in the price of raw opium from to , due to the increasing demand for heroin in the United States.

However, the last year has seen a radical drop in the price of opium in Village A.

Opioid Crisis Fast Facts

As a result, during local informants have reported a relative decline in the total area of communally-owned land being used for opium production in Village A; and a sharp increase in the number of local people who had left the village in search of work either in nearby cities such as Tepic or on the plantations of the Nayarit coast. Other villagers, who as autonomous poppy cultivators had previously had little contact with regional DTOs, have been directly contracted by the latter to work as wage-laborers on poppy plantations in other parts of Mexico, namely in the Golden Triangle zones of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua.

It is one of a succession of small villages — each home to between and inhabitants — located on the crest of a mountain range that reaches meters above sea level. The region forms a strategic commercial corridor that connects the Pacific coast of Guerrero with mainland highways that go north all the way to the United States.

Afghan Overdose. Inside opium trade

As one local farmer recalls,. This is a crucial region, you have to understand that. The region has been producing opium and heroin since at least the s, when Sinaloans brought poppy seeds to the mountains of Guerrero. Yet massive current poppy cultivation in the area around Village B is heavily related to the second boom of the U. Based on evidence presented in several academic and media publications, as well as on fieldwork conducted in the region in , it appears that most of the male population of this area works in poppy production. Some of them participate as a secondary activity, helping a family member or a relative during peak times of the production, when labor force is most needed: this is especially true at the beginning of each productive season, when farmers need to clean and prepare the fields for sowing, and four months later, during harvest.

In that sense, most of the local population is engaged in farming activities that are related to the growing of poppies, and the eventual harvesting la raya of raw opium paste or goma. Unlike in Village A, some local people also participate in the next phase, the transformation of opium paste into pure heroin. Numbering from 50 to individuals according to the task at hand, they include armed men working as sicarios , women working as lookouts or halcones , and other local people, including young children, who help the drug boss in different daily activities.

Most of these people — including the drug boss — were born and raised in the same area, and so the rest of the local population do not see them as constituting a drug cartel per se. Rather, they call the boss by his name, Don R. In the Sierra Madre del Sur, and, it would appear, in most of Guerrero, poppy cultivation offers three harvesting sessions per year rather than the two harvests common in Nayarit.

Then, from November-December to February-March, there is the sereno period, an intermediary season both in terms of prices and quality; after which, finally, comes the dry season production the secas , which is harvested around April-May, and gives the strongest and most profitable product. Contrary to what has been observed and described in other areas of the country, in Village B the poppy fields are not relegated to small patches on remote mountainsides, but start right outside of the villages, sometimes as close as a hundred meters from the main, paved road.

From there, they extend to cover most of the slopes and ravines in the area. During our fieldwork, we visited poppy fields that were only 15 minutes of easy walking away, as well as extensions that were more isolated and required a several hours hiking. Common views of opium production hold that the practice is systematically hidden in remote, hostile, and inaccessible areas.

Opioids Addiction

Yet, here it must be noted that most of the poppy fields are not really hidden, and that most of them were visible from a considerable distance away, especially when the poppy flowers were in bloom and covered the sierra in thousands of red dots. It is also crucial to mention that this part of the municipality hosts a semi-permanent army base, which is located on top of a hill, and allows soldiers to patrol the area day and night. In this area of Guerrero, the laboratories are located in the very same villages in which farmers grow the poppies.

Therefore, the local production scheme and market used to run as a closed economy. It relied on the assurance for growers that the acaparador will buy their production as long as they respect a certain level of purity and quality of the opium paste, and the assurance, for the local drug boss — through a regime of coercion and protection — that he will be able to produce heroin on a constant basis. Then, the acaparador sells the pure heroin to a bigger organization, capable of transporting and distributing it to the United States, since he does not have this ability himself.

The local dimension of the production and the trade has decisive implications for the drugs economy. One local explained:. Similarly, the local drug boss was also extremely worried about the fall in U. The two case studies previously outlined raise a series of important questions. If so, where? Answering some of these questions fully requires further research in Mexico. Together these figures suggest certain regional differences in opium prices.

One might surmise that they depend on a wide variety of factors including the quality of opium, the relative bargaining power of the community, the coercive power of the controlling DTO, the competition from other DTOs, distance from markets and supply routes, retail prices in the United States, and variance in the charges for official protection. But they all show one very clear trend. Opium prices are on the decline and the effect is on a very large scale. By combining UNODC estimates of opium production and the different prices offered for opium gum, we can estimate a the amount of money that was entering the Mexican countryside from the opium trade in and b how much this has fallen over the past year.

It should be noted that these are supply side estimates and do not take into account actual levels of demand or consumption and have not been modified by estimates of crop damage or seizure or other factors that could reduce revenues. The figures then tell two stories. On the one hand, they demonstrate the sheer value of the opium crop to the very poorest regions of rural Mexico over the past few years: of the opium-growing municipalities have poverty levels higher than the national average.

Famed opium-producing municipalities, like Badiraguato, but also less lauded centers like Villages A and B, have more than a third of the population living in extreme poverty. On the other hand, these figures demonstrate the radical decrease in the value of the opium crop over the past year. As the case studies of Guerrero and Nayarit demonstrate, in municipalities where beyond subsistence farming opium has become the sole game in town, this is causing a series of very serious secondary economic effects. Many local peasants are not even making back their investment on the product; many families are losing their sole source of income; the amount of money flowing into the local economy has dried up almost completely; and many are leaving their villages for temporary agricultural work or even to work directly for the cartels.

The economic consequences of this crisis are stark and somber. The first has been migration to the United States; the second has been the cultivation of illicit drug crops. The second might be about to close down. The Mexican opium crisis looks like it might ruin the poorest areas of rural Mexico for good. If the prognosis is bad, the current opium crisis may also provide an opportunity to move the poorer regions of rural Mexico away from their dependency on illegal crops, and, in so doing, wrest control of these areas from DTOs. For Mexican farmers, the declining price of opium shifts the cost-benefit analysis of their continuing to cultivate poppies.

However, as the price of opium in Mexico continues to slip, two ideas that have been floating around for years, but are now gaining greater political traction, appear genuine possibilities for change. Farmers would cultivate poppies and sell their opium harvests to private pharmaceutical companies, who would then convert the opium to morphine and use it for pain relief in Mexican hospitals.

Since then calls for opium legalization have gathered pace. In many ways, our research is grist to this mill. The peasants now receiving pitiful returns from illegal opium growing are much more likely to turn to the safer rewards which can be drawn from the suggested legal industry. Furthermore, legalization can be done relatively cheaply, as there is now no longer the need for the government or private pharmaceutical companies to compete with the stratospheric prices traditionally paid for opium by the DTOs.

First, there are the legal barriers to change, both in Mexico, and in the United Nations system. Revising international norms on legal opioid production is indispensable to a coherent, comprehensive, long-term improvement of the accessibility to efficient and controlled drugs for the population in need.

Second, the link between legalization and decreasing violence seems overly simplistic. Much of the violence in the Mexican countryside now revolves not solely around competition between traditional DTOs over drugs but is rather an extension of broader problems including judicial impunity, political competition, police corruption, kidnapping, extortion, illegal logging and mining, and unresolved blood feuds.

Third, and perhaps most interestingly from the perspective of our research, there are queries over whether legal production of opium would affect all but a small quantity of opium growing areas.

Here, there seems to be considerable disagreement over the possible market for legal opioids in Mexico. More conservative commentators claim that world demand for legal opioids is relatively small and legal production is already outstripping global demand. Currently Mexico imports only 0.

The Bottom Line

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Many people who start their opiate addiction using prescription opiates end up misusing heroin, as it is cheaper to use and easier to get a hold of. Most of the heroin coming into the United States is cultivated on poppy farms in Mexico, with eight cartels controlling production and operating distribution hubs in major U. Skip to main content. Source: Philly.

This would require only 7 tons of opium to produce. Seven tons is only 0. It would, in short, probably not even fulfill opium production in a single Guerrero village. What would happen to the rest of them? All these questions shall be addressed by further in-depth research. It would need hectares of poppy fields to produce. The latter argument rather presupposes that what the world needs is more rather than less legal opioid users. It seems to us that it was exactly these attitudes, pushed by large pharmaceutical companies in the United States, that got us into the situation in the first place.

How the US military's opium war in Afghanistan was lost

Nevertheless, it also suggests that legalization of opium for medical morphine production may not be a one-stop solution, but could at least be a start. Such programs have been attempted in many nations battling illicit drug production. Most equipment and other materials soon ended up in the hands of local political bosses in many cases the same men who today have monopolies on the most profitable aspects of drug production and processing. Thus a lack of political will to implement crop substitution programs, and the abject failure of other state-led rural development initiatives, did little to improve the lives of the vast majority of the rural poor, who had little choice but to continue trying to eke out a living through subsistence farming and small-scale poppy cultivation.

In countries where crop substitution programs have been implemented, their success has also been limited by one simple fact: illicit drug crops tend to command a higher price, thanks to the laws of international supply and demand, than their legal alternatives.

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S demand for heroin means that opium no longer represents a profitable business. Fentanyl is highly addictive and so potent that even a very small amount — about 2 milligrams or a dose that is equivalent to about 4 grains of salt — can be deadly.

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The market price for opium has plummeted as addicts in the US have swapped heroin for fentanyl, and could force Mexico's impoverished. Read CNN's Fast Facts about the opioid crisis and learn about the are drugs formulated to replicate the pain-educing properties of opium.

Drug busts of fentanyl usually produce amounts that could wipe out entire cities, or even states. The newest synthetic opioid, carfentanil, is even more dangerous; just a single grain could prove fatal. Even deadlier synthetic opioid variant drugs are likely to follow. Fourth, state and local governments are overwhelmed. The United States has only about 4. Unfortunately, laws enacted by many states to limit pain medication prescriptions have done little to stem the flow of overdose deaths.

As the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by The result has been a spike in fatalities due to SNPO usage, and over 63, drug overdose deaths in alone. The states are not prepared for the next generation of synthetic drugs.

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In the summer of , several states were dealing with deaths due to carfentanil. During this crisis it became apparent that needed federal resources and information to assist state officials were scattered and disjointed. Fifth, Congress is not taking drug addiction seriously and like most Americans, has become complacent about drug use and abuse. Many of the top contenders in the Democratic Party have made light of drug use and are actively supporting nationwide marijuana legalization. The US leads the world in illegal drug use and until this is taken seriously, nothing will change.

America can win this opium war but we must address the lack of border security that exerts tremendous strain on our government entities and is destroying our economy and the lives of our citizens. Congress has attempted to deal with this crisis by merely throwing billions of dollars at prevention and treatment but must address the five root causes of the problem to truly end our opioid epidemic.