Supplies of potent Afghan heroin in the U.S. are growing so fast that the pure white powder is overtaking lower-quality Mexican heroin, causing fears of increased addiction and overdoses, reports the Los Angeles Times. Heroin-related deaths in Los Angeles County soared from 137 in 2002 to 239 in 2005, a jump of nearly 75 percent in three years, a period when other factors contributing to overdose deaths remained unchanged. The jump in deaths was notable among users older than 40, who lack the resilience to recover from an overdose of unexpectedly strong heroin, according to county’s Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology.
“The rise of heroin from Afghanistan is our biggest rising threat in the fight against narcotics,” said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino. “We are seeing more seizures and more overdoses.” A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report says Afghanistan’s poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7 percent in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14 percent in 2004. Poppy production in Afghanistan jumped after the 2001 U.S. invasion destabilized a shaky economy, leading farmers to turn to the opium market to survive.