February 22nd, 2010
01:25 PM ET

Afghanistan's curse: Opium

With a loud "whoosh" and a blast of hot air, the pile of tires, wood and 2.5 tons of raw opium burst into flames. 

It's a government-sponsored "drug burn" in the western Afghan city of Herat, an event intended to reinforce the government’s claim that it is moving aggressively against the opium trade.

We flew early Sunday morning from Kabul to Herat to witness the event with Afghanistan's Deputy Minister for Combating Narcotics, Daoud Daoud.

The drug burn was dramatic, but the nearly 5,000 pounds of opium is just a tiny fraction of the 6,900 tons  - or nearly 14 million pounds - produced last year in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The acreage planted with opium has reportedly decreased over the last two years, but productivity per acre has increased.

Daoud told me he has similar "drug burns" planned, one next week in Kabul with 7 tons of opium, another the following week in Nangahar Province.

Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world’s opium, much of which is processed into heroin. Earnings from opium make up about a third of the country’s gross domestic product. It is a major source of income to the Taliban, who levy a 10 percent tax on its production.  Various warlords and government officials are involved in the opium trade.  Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been implicated in the opium trade.

If you want to see the devastating impact of opium on Afghan society, just go to Kabul’s main stadium any day of the week. There, you’ll find dozens of men and teenagers, huddled against the wall, inhaling opium fumes or shooting up heroin. The ground is strewn with used needles.

There I met Shafiqallah, a man in his 30s - although he looked 20 years older - who has been addicted to opium for the last six years.  He works when he can as an air conditioner repairman, but hasn’t had any work lately.  He told me he begs for the money to pay for his $4-a-day habit, plus feed his wife and six children. In Afghanistan, the average daily per capita income is less than $2. Shafiqallah said underwent treatment late last year to overcome his addiction, but it clearly didn’t work.

The number of opium addicts in Afghanistan has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2005 it was estimated that there were 900,000 addicts in the country. Three years later that number had jumped to 1.5 million.

It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years, but Afghan officials are hoping their efforts to eradicate opium through these organized "burns" will help curb the use of the drug - as well as cut funding for the Taliban.

soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. OBoy

    Sounds like this thread has been populated mostly by folks that are regular opiate users

    February 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    How are keeping these drugs illegal keeping people from using them again? Our drug laws are causing this violence, people will always use mind altering substances, it is part of human nature.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scott

    This is a terrible situation with too much complexity to be summarized in any sort of short story.

    It is entirely true that opium production has increased since the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan. This is due to the fact that the fanatically religious Taliban leaders viewed it as morally reprehensible, and did their part to try and quell production and consumption (I am not defending the Taliban in general, this is just the truth).

    Additionally, contrary to various chemically unbalanced nuts and conspiracy theorists, the 9/11 attacks were born in and nurtured in Afghanistan by the al-queda leadership that was being harbored there. In my view, a military conflict over that event was unavoidable (this is a legitemate use of military force in direct response to a devastating attack, unlike the situation with Iraq) so we find ourselves there now, mired in the issues that have existed there for many hundreds if not thousands of years.

    To top it all off, there is little else that the people of Afghanistan can do that is as profitable as opium production. Even after the losses by government eradication (both US and Afghani), the profits are in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Compare the value of a pound of corn or grain to the US street value of a pound of pure opium or heroin and it is easy to see why they choose this path...

    And then there is the matter of demand, where the complexity deepens further... Let me know when someone has sorted all of this out.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. momo

    "not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked"
    oh i don't know, maybe the 8 years of occupation
    wild guess

    February 22, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. micmac

    It is pretty obvious, if you don't know already, that even the most stable governments were built off fraud, greed and the blood, sweat and tears of countries that were/are not so fortunate.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    @Albert: Don't you think having an impact on the source of the drugs would have an impact to drug users here? I do. I've read articles before that suggested that people go into rehab when that's cheaper than their drug habit.

    @Katie: The only reason marijuana is illegal is because its a source of funds to fight higher grade drugs.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. john goodyear

    Sad but true article.

    IF you look at recent history, the amount of heroin produced and sold PRIOR to the FIRST US invasion after 9/11 VERSUS now, it's almost like comparing a grain of salt to a mountain.

    CIA / US Military are knee deep in this stuff.. G.Bush Senior – why do you think he earned the name "Uncle Poppy" over there?

    Of course the mainstream media will never reveal this.

    Reality – we are in it one way or another because the end-product is cash profits.

    Good introduction to this material - Google Mike Ruppert under Video selection, he provides all the documents and facts about it.

    or Narco News – good site. FACTS ARE FACTS!

    February 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vignesh

    Its hard to get rid of, if the Govt. destroys it, Taliban will grow more and so will the ISI. One way to solve it is to come up with some kind of genetically altered plant-decease or bio-chemical agent, that will destroy only this crop! Sell it to Afgans mixed in fertilizers or spray it all over.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. frank

    CNN states that it's not clear why there is a growing heroin problem! Could it be that we are devastating Afghan society?

    February 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jake

    To distinquish the CIA and Interpol from each other is quite absurd actually on the basis of their corruption. Countries seem to forget that criminalizing something increases its overall demand and price. With the war heightened, it will only be matter of time when the taliban will be trading with potential world powers for lets dare say a nuclear weapon with the profits made from opium.

    Afghanistan will be far better Decriminalizing it, than banning it. Time will tell.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kurt Edson-Herzovi

    your Kidding me right?

    "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years, but Afghan officials are hoping their efforts to eradicate opium through these organized "burns" will help curb the use of the drug – as well as cut funding for the Taliban.

    Posted by: CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman
    Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Life and Culture "

    yeah, burning opium has helped rid the US of heroin addicts, Long prison sentences has help, Methadone has helped, A bullet in the head of a person in China has helped, Legalized use in the UK has helped.

    What are you all talking about? This is not a issue of if there is no poppies then here be no addict.

    I feel for the Men and Women of opium producing regions, this is what they know and this is how they earn there income.

    I wonder what percentage of there population, compared to ours, here in the us, compares on rates of addiction?/ use?

    Why is it that a country we have 130,000 troups in, can produce 90% of the worlds opium?

    Some military we have, right?

    February 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cloud

    ciadeals,

    Why, of course! The military industrial complex profits far too much off of war to actually execute a working solution to the problems. Don't want to decimate that profit, oh and let's not forget about the profit of Karzai's brother!

    Drugs and a gas pipeline may be a factor, but no matter what they tell you, the war in Afghanistan has one absolute, one bottom line:

    Money.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Daylight 09

    It is not clear why the number of opium users in Afghanistan has increased in recent years? Probably because 9 years after we liberated them, the majority of the average people have no access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, electricty, employment and education. With a life like that, I'd spend my day high too.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. distressed

    very sad that parents need to give their kids opium to curb hungar. Shameful that kids here just throw out food like no big deal

    February 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. aaron

    This is not news from Afghanistan, Ithought there was a war going on there? You can find Junkies in any city in the world

    February 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  16. S. Lavigne Idaho

    I agree that the fields should be burned down but in the long run I don't think it's going to help much. If you truly want to get rid of the drug problem you have to get rid of the people producing it. One of the comments earlier said that the only way to solve it was to leagalize the drugs. If you legalize heroin you will kill the countries economy becuase the groups producing it are not going to put those funds back into the Afghan economy. You'd be shooting yourself in the foot.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  17. angelika

    Easier said then done. Where the Afghan government is letting Taliban rule the rooster, I do not think that with just burning a few pounds of Opium, will make such a significant difference. The government needs to be taken down. The people should be in charge, most of them live on $ 2.00 a year. Is that not a cry? These bastards live from the Opium. And the own folk is starving to deadth. That is a shame. Solution. I had my way kill them all out .

    February 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Raoul

    What pathetic reporting.

    Just call this a US government press release next time, and don't make have to mention in the comment section how the Taliban eradicated pratically all of the opium.....before We took over.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  19. dogsthatkill

    The Taliban had most opium crops eradicated. Once the US had over-thrown the Taliban, opium and other drug production went back to pre-Taliban levels.

    The US government is working on behalf of drug pushers everywhere. Keeping the Rothschild's heroin empire flowing. Follow the money and leads to the most corrupt, criminal and murderous gang of them all: The zionist occupied government of the USA / Israel.

    Drugs are money, drugs are power. Why else do you think they keep them illegal?

    The zionist owned media (aka: the US propaganda machine) will NEVER tell you the truth.

    The difference between a "Terrorist" and a "Freedom Fighter" relies solely on WHO controls the MEDIA.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  20. I am an Idiot

    i think this is cool. and stuff. and yea. so eat tomatoe soup!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  21. LR

    aahhh...that's why we are in Afgan.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Starcruiser

    So, the real reason the U.S. invaded Afghanistan is to continue our country’s failed WAR ON DRUGS huh ? If only we would stop trying to enforce our religious beliefs, along with our moral beliefs on the rest of the world, without a doubt we'd have enough money to take care of our own citizens back here at home. But that wouldn't mean a much of profit to anyone..And sucking billions of dollars out of the U.S. treasury in the name of Saving The Family to line one’s own pockets with seems to be what capitalism is all about.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  23. lolz

    I love the crazy people on the internet.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  24. RedheadInRecovery

    Folks, folks...
    For these people that are suggesting, "don't we need opium for painkillers?" and the implicit (and expressed) sentiment that somehow burning these crops will blight the legitimate business of prescription opiates, we hardly need 6,900 TONS to produce what we need.
    Then there's the other extreme. "The only solution is to irradiate the soil and make sure that nothing grows there for 1000 years". That would REALLY help the poverty and accompanying crime, now wouldn't it! Oh please.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Al O'Hara

    Some basic economics:

    People do drugs because: 1) They want or need them, 2) The drugs are available, 3) They have the time, resources and opportunity to obtain and use them. (Need, availability and opportunity.)

    Other people produce and sell drugs because: 1) People who do drugs want them, 2) They can obtain and deliver these drugs to a market, 3) They have something to gain by selling them. (Market, supply and return-on-investment.)

    Over time, a culture develops which adapts to the needs of users and producers. Disrupting either the user culture or the producer culture gets more difficult as the culture becomes more deeply embedded in the traditional national culture. When more than a certain percentage (say, ten percent) of the nation has a stake in the drug culture, it will have become firmly established.

    Assuming a unity of national will, drastic, painful and costly measures are then required to effect any lasting change.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  26. PAtrick alexander

    Some of you Idiots really believe that there is a war on drugs,lol

    people just like alcohol legal or illegal there will always be a certain amount of people that become addicted to whatever.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Jason R.

    Even if they destroyed 75% of the opium in Afghanistan the warlords would still make money off of it. The only thing that would happen is that the price of opium and heroin would increase as the demand is still there but the supply has diminished. You think the addicts are just going to give up on getting their fix because the price of heroin doubled or even tripled?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Mike

    If you really want to solve the problem, you need to rid yourself of the people who cause the problem in the first place. All one government needs to do is keep busting supply chains, lace the recoverd drugs with something which will kill you. Announce that the gov't is doing this and that if you do the drugs you will die, eventually you'll kill all the addicts thus reducing supply and the problem will reduce itself. Problem solved.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Duh

    @ Katie
    You shouldn't compare Opium to Marijuana, a highly addictive deadly drug vs. a a tobacco type product less dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol put together.

    But I do agree with your point, unless a more profitable harvest is provided, it will never stop.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Thomas

    When we expose people to addictive substances, demand for will rise.

    There is only one solution; we have to fight it.

    We have to fight supply, burn crops, prevent it from entering our country; and educate the world to turn away from drugs.

    To say the war on drugs will never be won is maybe true; it is an ongoing fight we must continue to fight.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Jonathan from nj

    I saw a story last year on 60 minutes (I think) where not opium, but saffron was a more lucrative and legal (by the way) crop to grow . As a result, continued fostering of a drug epidemic stems from a desire to stick with what is "tried and true" by those in Afghanistan, as its leaders (legit and otherwise) want its people to stay hooked rather than seek a better way of life through producing something that doesn't have such deadly consequences.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Kbo

    Awake:

    I hope you appreciate living in a country that allows you to make such ridiculous statements and live in your little dream world. You make me sick with your stupid conspiracy theory BS. Give us a break and keep your rants to the Alex Jones blogs.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  33. adam russell

    According to wiki the taliban wiped out opium production when they were in charge, which makes sense since they are religious extremists. Now this guy says the taliban is supporting opium?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Madarain

    Why is it a surprise that Afghanistan has a growing opium/heroin problem? LIfe there sucks...a lot, and for a lot of reasons. The religion is stifling, the culture is backward, the terrain is unfriendly, the top crop is poppies, and no one has any money except criminals, cronies and armies on one side or the other.

    The right thing to do would be to follow Davids advice...get rid of all the fields and let those who peddle suffering, slavery & death for a living find another field of endeavor.

    As for A.Smith. I doubt that gnashing of teeth is part of the CIA's playbook . That practice is reserved for inhabitants of hell, liberals and globalists.

    Im not sure you get it that intelligence means using more creative, and perhaps more devious methods, than your not so intelligent enemies who want to kill you. I can see you point, though. It would be great if all our enemies were junkies. That way, after they all got out of rehab, they could all make ammends, write tell-all books and go on Oprah. Nice ending.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Duh

    @Rak (post 7)

    Not that I am condoning the Taliban, but read the article carefully. "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years, but Afghan officials are hoping...". It has skyrocketed ever since the Taliban was put out of power, who would never allow for something like what is happening at the walls of the stadium. They (the Taliban) treated drug use with severe and brutal punishment, thus drug users/addiction was at extremely low numbers vs. the amount of opium being produced in the country, which was mainly for export.

    This is mainly a phenomenon of a tough parent leaving and being replaced by a novice babysitter. That's the political/socioeconomical side of it. Now @Rak, you probably didn't know this. That said, it's still inexcusable that you are labeling a people and a difficult social problem they are having with religion. Last time I checked, the high and mighty Christians walking in and out of a meth clinic weren't any better than the high and might Muslims you speak of.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  36. phil

    Check out Russian addiction numbers after they spent 10 years trying to conquer Afghanistan. Massive amounts of heroin/opium addicted soldiers returned home to Russia. Same thing will happen with our soldiers. It's already happening.
    Opium is the real reason anybody gives a hoot about Afghanistan.
    We will never destroy it anymore than we will eradicate the cocaine in Columbia. It's all for show. Too many billions of dollars up for grabs. Anybody who thinks there are NO Americans interested in the drug business in Afghanistan, better think again.
    To prove there is any chance of eliminating it, why don't we start with something "easy".
    Let's ban alcohol and cigarettes.
    Problem is: the people want booze and cigs.
    Like they want pot. How is it right that a government can tell me what plant I can grow in my backyard?
    When will we learn that education and treatment are the keys. Nobody can protect anybody from themselves.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  37. T 76

    The drug addiction in the country is at all levels and classes. There is no silver bullet to remedy this situation.

    There is a world wide food shortage and it includes Afghanistan. This is a country that can grow food sources easily and abundantly as well as other industry to process it. If it were not for the Taliban it could easily be a tourist place with all of the history it has and sites it once had. Education is badly needed to make these changes and that will take more time. Still it can be done, but do the people desire this is the question. What we consider criminal in this country is a way of life there and socially acceptable. It has to be the people there who make and desire the change. Forcing our ways and values on them will not work. There is no short term fix. What we have done in the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan is a harsh lesson. Going into countries as we did needs to be more surgical if we don't want to have to pay to rebuild them in both cases we end up having to make them better than they were prior to us going in. The next time we go rattling our spears in revenge, I trust we will move a little slower and have an actual plan/course of action with definitive goals and objectives.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  38. mr. potatohead

    "four dollar per day heroin habit"? book me a ticket to Kabaoul........stat!!!!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Ajay KumarIindia)

    All these effort go in waste as goverment officals are involved in all this trde of life taking.........until and unless some seriouscut down major taken i dont this all these small thisngs make any diffrence.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Katie

    If we cannot keep marijuana from being grown in our own backyard (even our national forests!) than we cannot possibly stop opium. Marijuana should be easier to stop: it isn't addictive, it is obvious what it is while being grown, it's being grown in a very stable country and there isn't as much profit to be made. Yet we cannot even stop this.

    Opium will always be grown in Afghanistan.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Fletch

    Yeah – because Afghanistan has been the picture of peace and harmony throughout their history...can't blame everything on the US folks.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Bill Nold

    Nobody in that part of the world can be trusted. The only solution is to irradiate the soil and make sure that nothing grows there for 1000 years.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Peter F. Coyle

    I know our government is serious when they napalm the poppy fields. This is war not tag.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Concerned Citizen

    What's really troubling is that poppy production was at its lowest point in years prior to the US led invasion. Now its at its highest point in years. I don't believe in coincedences.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  45. occoni

    there`s a chinese proverb that man has three addictions which cannot withdraw first religion- if u`re a priest ridden layaman or woman man eats our of the religion`s hand
    second casino- if u decide to clean ur hand therefore u cut ur two hands despite of they`re needful things to survive ur life but u shall play with ur feet`s thumb but worst of all drug-addict which leave u in the early grave

    February 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  46. chong

    like lee said, nothing will stop heroin.
    its like this....lets say we made pens. and one pen that i make cost me 5 cents to produce. .if i can sell that pen for 35$ each on the street, and there is always a demand for it, nothing will stop me or someone from producing pens.
    and since i, "the big pen maker", never touches the stuff anyways, its worth if for me to keep making pens and letting my desperate "pen dealers" assume the risk to getting caught.
    and after i get caught, or the law burns my supplies down, or i die, or anything,...it doesn't matter, because there's another person right behind me who knows that they can sell a product that cost 5 cents to make and sells for 45$ on the street. with that kind of mark-up on a product...there will always be producers and sellers. and since there will always be a demand for it, ....its a never ending cycle of supply and demand.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  47. scott h

    its so funny how people bash The US over a problem in another country which they have had decades before US and afghan affairs began. And wow 1.5 million addicts? thats a HUGE chunk of their population. Sad

    February 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  48. SOoner1500

    This is not our problem. It is centuries old and we nor any other nation on planet earth can change this country or rehabilitate its citizens. Prehistoric people lived in caves. Afghanistan people live in caves. The American public is currently undergoing the same type of denial regarding our own standard of living and the immediate problems that we face that causes us to say about Afghanistan...."Oh that is so sad. We need to do this or that..."

    The United States of America is not the world power it used to be. We have no leadership. We are economically bankrupt. Right now we have to take care of our home first. We need solutions to our own problems and Afghanistan is not one of them.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Kbo

    Love how so many want to blame everything on the US, pretty freaking sad in my opinion. I guess the Taliban and their Al-Queda cohorts should have thought before they acted and attacked the US, bringing us to their country. Now that I think of it, wouldn't it be great if Afghanistan returned to those halcion days when the Taliban where in charge and there was no US. Yeah, public beheadings and torture, Sharia law, extreme discrimination, destruction of all religious idols, no music, radical extremism at its best. Go ask the Afghan people if they want the Taliban back and not the US. I cannot believe how freaking stupid and blinded by hatred of your own country some of you posters are, really sad.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Awake

    Where to begin on this article...

    First of all, THE UNITED STATES MILITARY IS PROTECTING THE OPIUM FIELDS AND HELPING THE HEROINE TRADERS SUCCEED. This is why Pat Tillman was executed by friendly forces. Look up his quotes before he was murdered.

    Secondly, 9/11 had nothing to do with Afghanistan. This war was never justified and is only being continued because Obama is a war criminal JUST LIKE BUSH!

    Third, if the war on drugs was ended and all drugs were legalized, we wouldn't have this problem to begin with.

    Lastly, why the new comment system for JUST THIS ARTICLE cnn? Afraid the truth is going to go to high with "likes?" You media oligarchs disgust me. Your souls have no value, they are owned by evil and corruption.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  51. speaking of...

    It's sad to see that even after the Taliban they are still prisoners to a drug. Thankfully, I haven't heard there being any women who are addicts or maybe they are hiding out of fear of prosecution by the men...
    The Taliban must be laughing at the World because even though they may have lost majority control of Afghanistan they still are able to hurt these people and cause fear not only among them but the rest of the world.
    Legalizing Opium or any drug that which you take to much you'll OD should not be an option but it sure is looking like one with the amount they are burning over in Afghanistan and exporting all over the world.
    And why don't they teach these people how to sustain themselves? Why don't they start a farming project where these people can use the land once used for Opium to plant vegetables and raise some kind of cattle,etc.? For crying out loud, they might not be educated but I'm sure you can teach them some agriculture, how hard is it to plant a tree and raise cattle?? My dad's been doing it for 35 years now and he's no rich guy but it sustained us throughout..
    I'm just saying teach the Afghanis sustainance and our soldiers might be able to come home sooner than later...alive and mentally well...

    God Bless the men and women serving in the line of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan..and I hope the Republicans remain aware that the war was started by BUSH not BARACK hence the reason we are in a recession, have lost loved ones in 9/11 and the wars...stop having selective memory of who put our soldiers lives in danger and our country in financial mourning..

    February 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  52. MacDeezy

    Why not dump our toxic waste in Afghanistan? Wherever there's arable land not growing food crops, dump it. Opium dilemma solved.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  53. spangled

    In the illegal drug industry, there is no demand-supply chain as someone mentioned. Its more the opposite – more the supply, the more the drug is accessible, the more the demand. So its basically supply-consume. So "drug-burn" i think is a good move from the government. If there is a rise in drug addicts, it clearly points to the rise in dissatisfcation and frustration of people and lack of will. I think other than just eradication of drugs, Afghanistan must seriously look at all other options to improve the life style of its citizens. How will a war ravaged, poor country with barren land and no education system and a highly radical society do it? No one talks about that. How do we attack the problem from the root?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Yvonne

    If you stop the demand – there will be no need for a supply. "Therefore If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all thngs are become new. II Corinthians 5:17

    February 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  55. CARLEE

    Oh wait. Maybe Obama will cut a 100 trillion dollar check to help them burn down the fields.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  56. T-Smooth McDizzle

    Stop fighting the war on drugs? We may not be able to completly stamp out ANY crimes, but we should never stop fighting crime. That's a fallacious argument, requiring a perfect solution to the problem. Listen to herion addicts tell their story in recovery - their addiction to herion is hell. I would never want anyone to go through that, so let's keep fighting this "war that can never be won." The less supply there is, the less of a chance our children will suffer too.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Christian Hansen

    Burning opium doesn't address the economics of prohibition. It simply doesn't work – never has and never will. Look at the countless billions we've wasted on the war on drugs in Columbia the past 30+ years. Result? More drugs on out streets, at higher prices with more crime and bloodshed.

    Legalizing all drugs, as politically unpopular as it would be, is the only way to reduce the crime that results from the sky-hig value of the illicit product. Legalization would result in a market economy for opium. That would drive down opium proces and make it a far less attractive option for Afghanian farmers.

    Let's be honest; when you're trying to support a family in dire poverty would you grow opium or "sustainable crops to increase food supply'? David's suggestions involve tons of government intervention and funds for programs that have never historically worked (prohibition and crop subsidies).

    February 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  58. adamp

    I imagine it would be of very poor taste to suggest lacing the opium stock with cyanide.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  59. ciadeals

    Like the US actually cares about opium. If we really wanted to end the trade we could just burn all the poppy fields. Of course our "enemies" use the profits to buy weapons so why would we want to stop that? Got to keep that war machine moving along.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Merl

    The way out of it is simple: Stop Taking Drugs. Think abouit it, everytime some takes drugs, they fund the Taliban and other mass murderers and dictators. The blood of innocents is also on drug takers' hands. Also, taking drugs quickly ruins the body: it ferments the brain, cracks the nasal passages, dries up all bodily membranes and cavaties, rots teeth, destroys digestion, causes chronic constipation; and systemic deterioration through slow starvation. Most sensible people would rather be bored than have to pay for a short-term high with their financial, social, mental, and physical well being. Drugs are destroying the world like a cancer.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  61. Woody

    Drugs of some sort have been used for thousands of years. If we took all of the money we use to fight the drug lords , and all the money we use to fight wars . And gave it to the people so that they could eat and get educated we would not have this problem. I think it is funny that we spend mony to fight drugs. However there is a bar on every corner of the U.S. selling liquor. We will never win the drug war. Can you imagine going into surgery with only a bottle of liquor to dampen your pain ! You can not control something that grows wild. Even pot is just a weed. Is having a buch of drunk college kids in the U.S. any different than having people high on opium. The only reason to get rid of drugs over there is to put a bar on every corner in a place where it is prohibited by religion to drink liquor. How would americans feel if they came over here and burned down all the bars ? What ever would U.S. college kids do for entertainment !

    February 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  62. BJ

    Maybe some of those new addicts were standing too close to the government burn piles.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Bob

    I am concerned we are sending so many troops into Afghanistan and risking their lives while the Afghans grow Opium and sell it to the Taliban. Can't we just say stop or we are headed home! They need to help themselves because we sure can't do it by ourselves.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Doug

    "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years"..

    Really? I would think that having your country torn apart, again, by war would make a populace hopeless enough to turn to drugs like heroin. If you don't like your life, then heroin can trap you.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Leo D

    The only way the Afghan Gov. would truly be serious about stopping the opium trade is if the International community would supplement there pockets with another commodity. There is no way your going to tell someone making a million a month that now its going to be a thousand a month and get any kind of commitment. Either remove those in power or face the realization that any one who is placed in that position will eventually be corrupted by the money.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Hawkman

    It's maddness at the core..

    February 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Brandy

    This article is pure bull. The problem in Afghanistan isn't opium. The problem is extreme poverty that leads people to extreme suffering; they use the opium to try and relieve the suffering. Opium use is a symptom of the true problem, not the problem in and of itself.

    Miserable people tend to use drugs and alcohol to relieve their misery. These are people who can't get to doctors for their injuries and illnesses. What are they supposed to do? Sit there and suffer? If opium relieves the agony of their untreated injuries and soothes the hunger pains in their empty bellies, who are we to say that they're wrong for using it?

    Americans are incredibly good at judgementally pooh-poohing at the ways that the less-fortunate cope with their miseries, and incredibly BAD at seeing what the heart of the issue really is. Leave those poor people alone. Until their country develops enough to offer regular medical care to people who need it, I don't blame them one bit for relieving their pain in whatever ways they have available. If YOU had an untreated broken ankle, herniated spinal disc, or endometriosis and you had no doctor available to fix it, would you sit there and suffer in sobriety for the sake of "morality," or would you use a cheap and widely-available painkiller to make your life a bit less miserable?

    How can we BE so blind, judgemental, and heartless? Jesus help us. *sigh*

    February 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  68. Gurio

    They can burn as much opium as they want. It is PR.
    If 90% of Opium is getting out of Afghanistan into the open markets, burning a few tons is not going to help.

    Some said it correctly,
    as long as there is demand, there will be supply.

    I say make it legal, let them get fair price, if farmers demand to make a lot more, the margins will shrink and pretty soon the drug will become expensive, demand will go down.

    I wonder what I wrote made sense.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Guest

    I totally agree..nothing is going to stop the production of heroin.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  70. mike

    "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years" – it's quite simple really. The taliban were against opium crops and spent most of their time destroying opium fields. Since the 'war on terror' began, they had to shift their resources to more important matters(defending their soil). Opium production spiked tremendously after the US invasion.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Andrew

    1.5 million people, the author is saying that 6% of the Afghan population are Heroin addicts? That does not sound possible.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  72. H. Lee

    I've never understood why we (= the American government) don't just buy the whole crop and store it for future medicinal purposes? Relief of pain is a good thing and is never going to be unneeded, and the growers would have a nice profit. It's ridiculous to burn it.

    Nothing will stop heroin production, but legalizing it would take the crime out of it. I'd be in favor of that.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  73. cyberthugin4life

    First you have to curtail the demand of the drugs which always will be, now matter what you do, there will always be a problem.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  74. us USA

    the us military better might start using black bags like they did years ago to get in the last of the opium before it's all gone...

    February 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  75. Tanja K

    This is so sad. Supply will not stop until demand is high. So – we need to address that first. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money in drug trade. Afghani people are in such dire situation – wars, no jobs, weak government, corruption, poverty… We need to help them build economy and hope for better future.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  76. us USA

    the us military better might start using caskets like they did years ago to get in the last of the opium before it's all gone...

    February 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  77. John

    This is so sad. These people were made addicts by the lure and enticement of either money or a brief high to mitigate the stresses that common people face in such a devastated country. Next thing you know, with the unparalleled addictive nature of opium/heroin, often with just one hit, these guys are converted into totally helpless druggies. The people responsible for destroying the lives of these initially innocent people will be held responsible, either in this world or the hereafter. Its too bad there are limited rehab resources in such a decimated country to help these addicts. God help these addicts and their suffering families!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Walter Christie

    It is silly to think that the CIA participates, or even cares about the drug smuggling and heroin production. For a US agency, participating in something this illegal takes guts, guts no one in the Agency has anymore. The old guard from the Cold War was involved in the Iran-Contra affair 30 years ago – those people have long since retired. Current culture is too risk-averse for someone there to try to generate funding in such a manner, it's a very different agency nowadays. The only people that believe the CIA stands to profit from heroin smuggling are conspiracy theorists.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Paula Stepp

    When your life is hopeless and there are no more dreams, you create dreams. That is what opium does. The citizens of Afghaistan have been exposed to too many years of war to find hope for tomorrow. Even their dreams for their children have diminished. Get them jobs, give them infrastructure, give them education, show them tomorrow. We pour billions into this country in guns and soldiers. If we had invested that much in rebuilding their country, maybe they would be become the Japan of tomorrow ... a leader in the economy of central asia .. instead of the forcing them into the dregs of submission and repression while we hunt down al quaida and the taliban.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  80. tim

    "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years"

    Actually, it's pretty clear. Before the US invasion, poppy production there was at an all-time low. Enter instability and wartime, and later a president who is well-connected to the drug-lords, poppy production increases.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Amir Jaberi

    Opium makes up to 90% of Afghanistan's exports and majority of its shambled economy. It will take decades to wipe off the opium fields from Afghanistan. As an example, even in Colombia with a stable government they have not been able to reduce cocaine production in that country, and in Afghanistan it is a difficult task to achieve, but the only solution is to produce jobs and improve the afghan economy. I can assure you that if you had no other option to earn money in a country where more than 50% of the population is below the poverty line, you would too begin working on opium fields to feed your family.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  82. insight

    Legalize ALL drugs, then the USA can take billions of dollars and dump it into our youths education instead of investing in a drug war that can NEVER be won.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Jason

    So much for a C.I.A bonus this year. There goes some hefty proffits for them

    February 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Richard

    So let's continue to legalize drugs in the US. Can't people understand the war on drugs is worth fighting every day? Do we really need a society with a percentage of adicts that will steal or worse to get their fix?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  85. MAE

    What about all the other important uses for opium, like for pain relief and morphine? I think there can be better reform on regulating the trade itself once there is a legitimate government. Also Lee, I don't think it's that impossible to curb production, look at China and what other places once were.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  86. BarryC

    "It's not clear why the number of heroin addicts has spiked in recent years". Are you kidding? We went to war against these people and bombed them to hell. How dumb can a writer be?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  87. J Felix

    Opium production has been around for a very long time and is not going away as long as humans inhabit this earth. These wars on drugs are not wars to eliminate, these are wars to profit from even by destroying this batch only means the producers are going to produce more and get more creative in getting it out into the world. This process is the same and will have the same outcome = money wasted to "end" this constant struggle with powerful underground drug lords = neither side will win. This is sad.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  88. Mark R

    Isn't opium used to produce many different types of drugs and medicine? Isn't Afghanistan one of the best suited countries for opium growing in the world? Isn't opium cheaper to buy in Afghanistan than most other countries? Seems to me like we can save ourselves a lot of trouble, and hurt the financing of the Taliban, buy simply buying large quantities of the opium ourselves, then using it to manufacture legal drugs. Everyone benefits. The farmers can continue to grow a profitable good, tons of opium is taken off the black market, and we aren't trying to force the Afghanistan farmers to grow a crop (like corn) w/ little or not profit margin.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maureen Murphy

      Mark, I am with you. I was going to write the same thing. Since Afghanistan has no economic base (other that the black market), it makes sense for the United States to buy the opium to make pharmaceuticals. This could provide better lives for all of the people of Afghanistan. Do you think the alcohol and tobacco lobbies would nix this or does the US not want Afghanistan standing on its own. Have you heard from others agreeing with you. How I wish we could do a grassroots movement on making Afghanistan an "honest" country. Destroying something that could be so helpful is such a waste. Do you know where the US pharmaceuticals buy/steal the resources to make out safe/unsafe drugs.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  89. lou

    based on our success here at home, i'd say the dealers there are pretty safe.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Mercy

    Yep, now one gets a sense of what the British did to China during the Opium War when they traded opium as a commodity good to China to offset the huge trade deficit.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  91. tony russo

    To David Rand:

    May almighty God bless you for your beautiful comments about the afghan people and their problems, Seems to me nobody cares for afghans in the interntaional community all they ever want to do is to use those folks for their benefits like 1)the British 2)the Russian 3)the United States. They all doing their killings and using and abusing for their proxy games.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  92. Albert

    We cannot get rid of our own "drug problems" here in the United States, what makes us think that Afghan will be even remotely successful?

    February 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  93. Kenny S. / Texas

    Smells like a stimulus package might be in the works.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  94. Rak

    What? Drug Addicts in a Muslim Afghanistan? What Hypocrites! And they proclaim they are high and mighty? Please ....

    February 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  95. BB

    "I imagine the CIA is gnashing its teeth as it watches some of its Opium caches go up in flames. "

    Watch out, the black helicopters are coming for you...

    February 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  96. Kraig Rasool

    As long as there is a demand...there will always be a supply. The ingriendents are growing
    from the ground up, so you could burn the crops everyday and still there would be more.
    The powers that be also have two hands in the mix...the money is too great and runs long.
    Until the real picture shows on the screen, the problem of addicts will persist.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  97. Spencer

    Lee, don't you mean "selling it again", remember the Golden Triangle of Vietman.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  98. Lee

    Nothing, I repeat nothing is going to stop the heroin production. There is so much money to be made that the US military will start selling it if the afgans don't.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  99. David Rand

    If you look at the bigger picture..
    – Cut down/burn all the fields
    – Gov't pays workers to grow new sustainable crops to increase food supply
    – Puts people back to work in the fields
    – Create a resale market in the city markets for wholesale/retail sales
    – Take the main source of funds from the Taliban
    – Pay former Taliban soldiers to leave Taliban and become part of the work force
    – Who knows..maybe even create a sustainable exportable market with some help from the International community
    – Reduce # of deadbeat drug addicted citizens

    Seems like alot of long term benefit..and ever field should be located and burned.
    Maybe even pay the Taliban solders to manage the new crops...

    February 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  100. A. Smith, Oregon

    I imagine the CIA is gnashing its teeth as it watches some of its Opium caches go up in flames.

    I am certain Interpol is applauding this destruction of Opium and hopes there are many more to come.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
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