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  Heroin, Meth Threat Growing In U.S. - Officials!
Posted by FoM on January 10, 1999 at 15:21:36 PT
 
DEA EL PASO, Texas
Drug enforcement officials are bracing for an increase in the volume of heroin and methamphetamines coming into the United States from Mexico this year, authorities say.


Mexican cartels are cornering markets on these narcotics and pushing them through southern border points at big profits, according to current and former anti-drug officials and statistics reviewed by Reuters.

U.S. officials, including Vice President Al Gore, acknowledge the proliferation of drugs like methamphetamines, especially in rural areas, and say society must become more aware of their presence and their dangers.

"We have a crisis on our hands," Gore told a town meeting in Des Moines, Iowa Friday on the methamphetamine threat "to the social fabric" of that state.

Officials of the Drug Enforcement Administration agree, and say methamphetamine and heroin use is a problem throughout the country among all types of people.

In interviews over the weekend, sources said there was no way to determine the size of the influx of methamphetamines and heroin for 1999, but they agree it will be significant.

"The writing is on the wall," Phil Jordan, a former DEA administrator, told Reuters.

Jordan said anti-narcotics intelligence shows the availability and cheapness of both drugs have made them popular and a growing a problem. A night's high on heroin or methamphetamines can cost between $10 and $25, officials said.

Methamphetamines, stimulants known as "meth" on the street, used to be popular among bikers. But they have evolved as a "social" narcotic, and DEA officials say they have surpassed cocaine as the drug of the 90s.

Methamphetamines are taken in pill form and they provide a high like cocaine. After prolonged use, some users have developed psychotic symptoms.

Heroin, a depressant, was popular in the 1970s, then dropped off almost completely in the 1980s. Usage went back up in the Northeast during the early 1990s, and has now spread throughout the country, Jordan said. Heroin, derived from the pods of opium poppy, is a powder that can be smoked, sniffed or dissolved in water and injected.

"Today's heroin mortality figures are the highest ever recorded, exceeding even those of the mid-70s, when deaths reached a high of just over 2,000," a DEA report says. "Close to 4,000 people have died in each of the last three years from heroin-related overdoes."

Officials speculate heroin overdoses are caused by the high level of purity, which has risen from 25 to 50 percent four years ago to almost 99 percent.

According to DEA reports, the price of heroin has dropped from $3,000 to $7,000 an ounce four years ago to the current rate of $1,000 to $2,000 an ounce.

The price of methamphetamines have dropped from $10,000 to $15,000 a pound four years ago, depending on purity, to $5,000 to $9,000 a pound.

Jordan said law enforcement officials correlate price drops to more availability. "The price (of heroin) is dropping, the purity is rising and that's killing our kids," he said.

Heroin, which was once produced almost exclusively in Asia, now is being produced in Mexico.

Methamphetamines were once produced by small operations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, but cartels are now taking over, DEA officials have said.

"The Mexicans are now the most significant world supplier of meth," Jordan said.

Robert Castillo, the special agent in charge of the El Paso DEA field division office, said methamphetamines were being produced in large quantities in Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico. Numerous labs exist in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Officials said Mexican cartels are soaking up the meth and heroin markets because they are lucrative and they do not have to share the profits with Colombians, who experts say produce most of the cocaine found in the United States.

"They can keep all the profit for themselves, and you can make a million dollars on a $200,000 investment," Jordan said.

Primary entrance points for heroin and methamphetamines are through Texas and California, officials say. However, they say smugglers also are using routes through Arizona and New Mexico.

David Monnette, a DEA spokesman in El Paso, said the agency was currently reviewing interdiction efforts and planned to formulate new strategies.

"Washington needs to take a leadership role in solving this problem," Jordan said.

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