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Eight U.S. troops die after sampling Afghanistan's deadliest crop, Opium

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 24th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Afghanistan is notorious for producing the deadly poppy that produces opiates that are turned into illicit drugs such as heroin and morphine. Now, some U.S. troops have paid a high price for their use of the insidious crop. According to U.S. Army investigative reports, eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The overdoses were revealed in documents showing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates.

Heroin use is apparently on the rise in the Army overall, as military statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010.

Army officials have steadfastly declined comment. Records obtained from the service's Criminal Investigation Command provided glimpses into how soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles and an Afghan interpreter. In one case, heroin was purchased from an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was eventually fired.

Afghanistan is estimated to supply more than 90 percent of the world's opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study.

It must be stressed that while records show that U.S. soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet.

Watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the documents to television journalists.

One fatal overdose occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium outside the base's entry point. The first soldier reportedly died after consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a cigarette.

Soldier lingo for the drug is called "Afghani dip."

The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850, including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command.

"You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan," Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch said. "Our concern is will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country?

"There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use," Fitton added. "Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more."

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