Fictoid #10:
The Geography of Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supplies the media with a geography of drugs that makes it appear that it has control over critical information in on drugs. Consider, for example, the report in the New York Times that "Colombia produces than 90 percent of the cocaine and about two-thirds of the heroin that reaches the United States." The New York Times cites its source as the DEA. The DEA also provides geographical data to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, which noted in its annual report that "Afghanistan was the main source of illicit opium with 70 percent of opium production in 2000 and up to 90 percent of heroin in European drug markets." Although such pinpointing of the origins of "90 percent" or "70 percent" of a narcotic to a particular country may be convenient for waging wars on drugs in the media, they are fictoids of governmental agencies.

The DEA and other government agencies can only determine the origin of the drugs it has seized or bought. And, according to its own estimates, these seizures and purchases account for less than a tenth of the total consumption of cocaine, opium and heroin that is distributed, consumed and never found by law enforcement agencies. Of the small fraction that is seized, only a small portion is analyzed by labs to detects clues to its origins. So, even if the lab analysis were totally reliable (and they are not), they would not reveal where the vast bulk of drugs come from.

Nor can the geography of drugs be extrapolated from the small fraction that are analyzed since the drug seizures and purchases are not random events. They come mainly from looking in pre-selected channels and from purchases aided by criminal informers, and so only identify the proximate location of the drugs passing through these channels and informers. The DEA has no way of knowing from the origin of the ocean of cocaine that is not intercepted. In the case of cocaine, the base is produced from coca leaves grown in many nations, including Peru, Colombia, Bolivia an Ecuador. It can be extracted, processed and turned into cocaine almost anyplace in the world. In the case of opium, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) had been cultivated for centuries in virtually every country between Bulgaria and China, including Pakistan, Burma, Laos, India and Afghanistan. It can then be converted into morphine base and heroin virtually anywhere. Ten square miles of poppies, anywhere, could supply the morphine base for most of the American or European heroin market. All that is required to convert the morphine base into heroin is a small kitchen and acetic anhydride (popularly known as A.A.). Once converted, it cannot be traced to its origins with any scientific certainty. So claims that "90 percent" of the heroin in Europe comes from poppies grown in Afghanistan are simply plucked out of thin air.


The continuous flow of drugs from other countries is one of the primary reasons why  addiction treatment continues to be a major issue in the United States.


 Any further examples of uncorrected fictoids?

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