By Alfa · Mar 7, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    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
    Intelligence Service.

    '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
    rising supply.

    '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.'

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