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In Vancouver, the number of heroin-related criminal charges has shot up more than sixfold, from 72 in 2003—the year Canada sent its first large military contingent to Afghanistan—to 445 in 2009, according to Vancouver Police Department figures.
The B.C. Coroner’s Office warned on May 5 that the province saw 20 heroin-related overdose deaths in the first four months of 2011, more than twice the number last year for the same period. The coroner said that unusually potent heroin may be to blame. But other provinces are also seeing more heroin and more ODs. And the story is similar across the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Canada-wide, police seizures of opium shot up threefold between 2001 and 2008, from 31.5 kilograms to 96.9 kilos, according to Health Canada, which tests seized drugs for police forces. Seizures of heroin, an opium derivative, doubled from 66.6 kilos in 2001 to 133.4 kilos in 2008.
According to UN figures, much of the blame lies with a 15-fold increase in Afghan opium production since 2001, the year Canadian soldiers helped the U.S. overthrow the country’s Taliban government. Afghanistan now supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium.
Increased heroin supply worldwide and falling prices are the little-noticed side effects of the western presence in Afghanistan.