“But very soon, perhaps within a year, the poppy will no longer be the only way to produce heroin’s raw ingredient. It will be possible for drug companies, or drug traffickers, to brew it in yeast genetically modified to turn sugar into morphine.”
This is a game changer. Here’s how this works. The pharmaceutical industry produces painkillers. Doctors prescribe painkillers. They have to be designed so that they are easy to take for legitimate users and, at the same time, designed so they discourage abuse by addicts. 80% of heroin addicts started with prescription painkillers prescribed by doctors. Those prescription medications become harder and harder and more expensive to get, so addicts turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to procure. And it looks like the cost of heroin is going to get even cheaper because now heroin won’t depend on fields of poppies in Afghanistan. All an illicit drug producer needs to procure is this fancy yeast designed for Big Pharma.
Here’s a chart of the number of painkiller prescriptions written by doctors in the last 20 years:
And here’s the subsequent rise in heroin addiction and overdoses.
Nationally, overdoses are getting younger and whiter. The most recent federal data show 19,154 opioid drug deaths in 2010, with 3,094 involving heroin and the rest painkillers. Eighty-eight percent of those who died from heroin were white, half were younger than 34, and almost a fifth were ages 15 to 24. Heroin deaths of teenagers and young adults tripled in the first decade of this century.
But don’t forget…cocaine is just as deadly as heroin. It just kills you in a much more dramatic way from sudden cardiac death. Instead of going to sleep and stopping breathing you snort some coke and instantly die from your heart stopping.