A Washington Post article this week reported on the rise of heroin coming into the United States and mentions Mexican drug traffickers' "shrewd marketing strategy": targeting areas where prescription-drug abuse is high, including St. Louis.
According to the story, drug cartels aren't making as much money on marijuana, mainly because laws are changing in the U.S., and the need for Mexican weed isn't as high as it once was. The cartels are still making money off of cocaine and human trafficking, but cartel leaders have mansions and tigers to pay for, so heroin is coming into the U.S. at a greater pace.
But the cartels aren't just picking areas of the U.S. at random. Rather, they've decided to cut in on the pharmaceutical companies' action:
DEA officials say the spread is the result of a shrewd marketing strategy developed by Mexican traffickers. They have targeted areas with the worst prescription pill abuse, sending heroin pushers to "set up right outside the methadone clinics," one DEA agent said.
And St. Louis is one of the places mentioned where the illegal drug cartels are competing with the legal drug cartels.
The rise in heroin usage in the St. Louis area over the past few years has been much talked about. And prescription opiates, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, have often been blamed for being the "gateway drug" for heroin users.
That still appears to be the case, but going from prescription pills to heroin seemed like a natural progression on the road of drug abuse, not a result of narco-marketing. If Mexican drug cartels are indeed purposely targeting areas of the country with significant prescription-drug problems, it means people with painkiller addictions are being tempted by a cheaper, often easier-to-get drug that has been brought in the country to cater their needs.
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