Testimony on Drug Trade Highlights System’s Complexity

5/27/16 InSight Crime

opium_poppy_field_-_mexicoIn testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee, InSight Crime Co-Director Steven Dudley discussed some common myths and the decidedly more complex reality of Mexico‘s drug trafficking groups and their role in fueling the US heroin epidemic.

Mexico’s Increased Market Share

US consumption of heroin has increased significantly in the last few years. The reasons for this are complex but have to do with the increase of prescription drugs in the United States, a rise in prices of these prescription drugs and their black market counterparts, and the subsequent safeguards on this prescription medicine market, specifically OxyContin.

The US portion of the world heroin market is small by comparison in terms of users, but outsized in terms of potential earnings. The Rand Corporation estimated in 2014, that US consumers spend as much as $27 billion on heroin each year, an increase from $20 billion per year in 2000.1 Only the marijuana market is worth more in the US.2

Mexican, Guatemalan and Colombian criminal organizations have reacted to these changes by producing more heroin. Only a small percentage of the world’s opium poppy is cultivated in this hemisphere, but after it is processed into heroin, almost all of it is sold in the United States where the number of consumers for the drug has more than doubled since the early 2000s.

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