SUPER-HEROIN DEALERS TARGET MIDDLE CLASSES
Drug traffickers are targeting middle-class Britons with high-purity
heroin that users prefer to smoke rather than inject, says a new
United Nations drug agency report.
Tailoring products to meet the sensitivities of those British users
who find injection repulsive will create a wider market for the drug,
warns the International Narcotics Control Board.
'The illicit market operates in a very smart way, selling a drug to a
new class of users by telling them, "Use it in a different way and you
won't become addicted",' said Rainer Wolfgang Schmid, a board member.
'Middle-class users will not inject when they start taking heroin, but
when they become addicted, which they certainly will, they will move
on to injection and then the other problems kick in.'
The board, an independent UN body that monitors global drug
trafficking and use, said a flood of high-grade heroin from
Afghanistan to Britain, combined with the new marketing tactic, would
boost the numbers of those prepared to experiment with the drug.
'Injection has become very unattractive to young people, especially in
Britain, because of its link to HIV,' said Dr Herbert Schaepe, who is
the board's secretary. 'Trafficking groups who want to continue to
make money are constantly looking for new illicit marketing strategies
to increase their profits, and this is one of their cleverest tricks
yet,' he added.
'The heroin coming in from Afghanistan now is so pure that smoking it
will give users enough of a kick to get them hooked,' he said. 'The
dealers tell new users heroin isn't addictive if smoked, but it's not
true: heroin is heroin, however it's used.'
The board's annual report also warns that the price of the drug is
falling due to the increasing level of production in Afghanistan of
opium poppies, the raw material for heroin.
The UK has more than 270,000 heroin and crack cocaine addicts, only
57,000 of them registered as users, according to the British Crime
Survey. 'This is a depressing indication of how weak a grip the
Government has on users and how little idea they have of the genuine
scale of the problem,' said a Home Office source.
Opium production had almost stopped in Afghanistan, the main source of
the UK's heroin, but since the Taliban were ousted from power two
years ago it has been higher than ever. Some 3,600 tons of opium was
produced in Afghanistan last year, 6 per cent more than in 2002. This
was nearly 80 per cent of world cultivation and was the source of
three-quarters of the heroin sold in Western Europe.
'The distribution networks for heroin are sophisticated, and the
determination and ingenuity of dealers and local distributors should
not be underestimated,' said a spokeswoman for the National Criminal
'Although the service has so far no proof that the middle-class
market for heroin is increasing, we've seen with crack cocaine that
dealers will always look to exploit complex new markets and
opportunities to maximise their profits,' she added.
The Government reclassified cannabis to allow the police to focus on
serious drugs such as heroin, but the UN has warned that this strategy
could be undone if street prices for the drug fall as a result of
'We're highly aware that traffickers constantly change their marketing
to get a toehold in new markets,' said a Home Office spokeswoman.
'This is a problem being faced by the United States and we are working
with them to tackle it together.'