Rise in US Heroin Use Fueled by Mexican Production: Official

Mexico opium

Soldiers destroy opium poppies in Mexico

A top US official has lamented the rising rates of heroin use in the country, pointing out that Mexico has grown to become the biggest supplier for the market. 

William Brownfield, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said on February 3 that domestic consumption of heroin had risen 65 percent in recent years, and called out Mexico for it's role as a producer country, reported the Associated Press.

Though Brownfield emphasized that Mexico is the main provider of heroin for the US, he noted that most of the heroin that authorities find in the eastern part of the country is coming from Colombia.

The latest National Drug Threat Assessment from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) suggests that the split between Mexican and Colombian heroin in the US could be equal, however. The figures in the report show that more than 50 percent of the drug seized in 2012 in the US was coming from South America, with Colombia being the main source, and Mexico accounting for around 45 percent of the total. With the exception of 2011 most of the heroin seized in the US since 1995 has come from South America.

However, heroin production in Mexico is thought to be 30 times that of Colombia’s, according to the 2013 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and since 2003 there’s been a steady increase in the amount of Mexican heroin seized in the US.

With the legalization of marijuana in some US states causing the price of Mexican produced cannabis to fall, and an apparently booming heroin market, some Mexican farmers have begun to shift into opium poppies, or increase their existing cultivation. According to Time magazine, with 300 grams of opium paste a farmer can earn around 4,000 pesos ($275) in a day. Also, the 13,000 pesos (almost $900) that a kilo of opium can be sold for outstrips the 250 pesos ($17) that a farmer can earn with a kilogram of dried marijuana. 

Prior to 1995, Southeast Asia was the largest provider of heroin to the US, though now accounts for virtually nothing. Afghanistan -- the world's biggest producer of heroin -- had roughly a 5 percent share of the market in 2012, according to the DEA.