Once upon a time, narcotic drugs were expensive and relatively hard to find and their purity was low and inconsistent, and they could addict you or kill you. They were also illegal and just possessing them could put you in jail. All these factors helped to keep the market for narcotics relatively small.
Now, these same drugs, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, and the new ones, the fentanyls, are cheaper, and their purity is much higher, and except for those fentanyls, more reliably consistent, and they are being marketed more widely and more aggressively. So you can guess the result.
Even though the threats of addiction and death and prosecution and jail are all still present, more Americans are using more narcotic drugs than ever before.
Then, there’s the second bottom line, the rising curve of drug use pulls behind it a second wave of property crimes to enable addicts to buy their drugs, and, especially where methamphetamine is the drug of choice, a splash of unusually violent, unusually senseless crimes.
Here in New Mexico, a state long burdened with high rates of violent crime, drug abuse and death by overdose, we’ve seen more than our share of headline stories of lives wasted or prematurely ended. 2 Police officers are shot to death, one by a meth junkie stopped because he was driving the same car he used in half dozen fast-food restaurant robberies; the other, by a heroin dealer and informant who grabbed the officer’s gun while he was being hand-cuffed after a traffic stop for driving a stolen motorcycle. Worst of all, 2 young girls, one 10 the other a teenager, are abused, then murdered, by meth abusers…in one case adults, in the other by a pair of addicted teens.
Mike Gallagher is a veteran investigative reporter working for the Albuquerque Journal. Most recently he (and his colleague Lauren Villagran) completed a 6-part series called The Cartels Next Door, covering the global trade in drugs from the 6 major cartels in Mexico, to the small local distribution networks in the cities town, villages and American Indian reservations in New Mexico.