Part 1 of a 3pt. series (pt. 2 Thank You for Saving Me, pt3 Good Bye My Broken Sunday)
Traffic is heavy worldwide, with the biggest producer being Afghanistan.
According to U.N. sponsored survey, as of 2004. Afghanistan accounted for production of 87 percent of the world’s heroin. Afghan opium kills 100,000 people every year worldwide.
The cultivation of opium in Afghanistan reached its peak in 1999, when 350 square miles (910 km2) of poppies were sown. The following year the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, a move which cut production by 94 percent.
By 2001 only 30 square miles (78 km2) of land were in use for growing opium poppies.
A year later, after American and British troops had removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, the land under cultivation leapt back to 285 square miles (740 km2), with Afghanistan supplanting Burma to become the world’s largest opium producer once more.
Opium production in that country has increased rapidly since, reaching an all-time high in 2006. War in Afghanistan once again appeared as a facilitator of the trade. Some 3.3 million Afghans are involved in producing opium.
At present, opium poppies are mostly grown in Afghanistan, and in Southeast Asia, especially in the region known as the Golden Triangle straddling Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Yunnan province in the People’s Republic of China.
There is also cultivation of opium poppies in the Sinaloa region of Mexico and in Colombia. The majority of the heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico and Colombia.
Up until 2004, Pakistan was considered one of the biggest opium-growing countries.Conviction for trafficking in heroin carries the death penalty in most Southeast Asian, some East Asian and Middle Eastern countries among which Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the most strict.
The penalty applies even to citizens of countries where the penalty is not in place, sometimes causing controversy when foreign visitors are arrested for trafficking, for example the arrest of nine Australians in Bali, the death sentence given to Nola Blake in Thailand in 1987, or the hanging of an Australian citizen Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore.
It has been speculated that an unknown portion of heroin related deaths are the result of an overdose or allergic reaction to quinine, which may sometimes be used as a cutting agent.A final factor contributing to overdoses is place conditioning. Heroin use is a highly ritualized behavior.
While the mechanism has yet to be clearly elucidated, longtime heroin users display increased tolerance to the drug in locations where they have repeatedly administered heroin.
When the user injects in a different location, this environment-conditioned tolerance does not occur, resulting in a greater drug effect. The user’s typical dose of the drug, in the face of decreased tolerance, becomes far too high and can be toxic, leading to overdose.