As U.S. and NATO forces continue to engage the Taliban and provide security to a fledgling democratic Afghanistan, the American and Afghani people don’t have all that much in common, but there is one thing that binds the two nations together: heroin.
Afghanistan’s poppy fields (the opium crop from which heroin is derived) have supplied drug lords with the commodities to get Americans hooked on heroin for decades, but without concrete or nationwide Afghan policy on poppy farming. The State Department published a report showing that nearly 74 percent of homes where Afghani heroin users lived, children were significantly exposed to the drug.
One University of Florida scientist currently conducting another study on heroin’s effect on Afghani children divulged to ABC News that he believed this problem could lead to a lost generation of Afghanis.
While heroin may not lead to a lost generation of Americans, there is no doubt that the growing heroin problem within our own nation is intertwined with Afghanistan – and it isn’t by accident. The middle men are drug cartels that have begun to tactically target suburban youth, at least according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Heroin isn’t like marijuana, it isn’t like alcohol, it isn’t even like cocaine or amphetamines. I’ve lost too many classmates and friends to heroin over the years to know the difference. Plano (my hometown) used to be in the heroin spotlight in the ’90s, but there are too many examples of heroin ruining communities across this nation for Plano to stick out these days.
“It was something that seemed taboo but it wasn’t really, it just wasn’t as visible as pot or (prescription) pills or beer and liquor,” said Kyle Lucak, a junior political science major from Plano. “Every so often you get a text or call from someone letting you knows this person or that person from high school is dead, and it’s always from heroin.”
Brenden Thayer was the first person I knew to succumb to heroin in high school. He snorted black tar heroin one evening, and his dad found him dressed and ready to go to school lying on his bed the next morning, except he wasn’t breathing.
No, he wasn’t one of my good friends, but he still played on my T-ball team growing up, he was the first kid I sat next to in kindergarten, he lived just a couple blocks from my house (he was the bus stop before me), and we shared many of the same friends in high school.
It is now 2010, and I’m running out of fingers to count the friends and peers who fell to the grips of this highly addictive drug. Some were from overdose, at least one from suicide, and for every one of those who are now deceased, there are family and friends who haven’t been released from heroin’s grip yet.
The heroin problem in Afghanistan has spilled over to the United States, and regardless of the poppy fields and heroin trade being crucial to some tribal security pacts and tacit local approval of foreign forces in Afghanistan, there should be zero tolerance of poppy farming in Afghanistan. It could destroy a generation of Afghanis, but it will also take down countless communities and families in this country.
Ryne Sulier is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Plano.