The Pyramid Of Junk
"The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below ... right up to the lop or tops, since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principles ol monopoly;
1. Never give anything away for nothing.
2. Never give more than you have to give (always catch the buyer hungry and always m;ikc him wait).
3. Always lake everything back if you possibly can. The Pusher always gets it all back. The addict needs more and more junk to maintain a human form ... buy off the Monkey."
William S. Burroughs Evergreen Review. j»TL/!:eb. I960
about the "heroin crazes" experienced by major cities. After 1910 the medical journals began taking notice of the increasing pleasure use of heroin, and by 1920 it was considered the number one problem drug in the country, an undeserved honor it has yet to relinquish. (Alcohol and the barbiturates affect far mote people far more seriously than does heroin.)
Cheap and easy access to heroin lasted only about 16 years. The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 prohibited, among other things, the possession of opiates for nonmedical uses. Then in 1924 the manufacture of heroin in America was prohibited, and in 1956 all existing stocks of the drug were ordered destroyed. Even though it was a more effective analgesic than morphine. American physicians could now no longer prescribe it for any reason. Illicit use kept growing throughout this period, the price of black-market heroin kept rising and the "drug problem "-the official eupl lem i sm for "add ict-rel a ted crime" kept getting bigger. Which, given heroin's addiction potential and the price of illicit smack, is hardly surprising.
Up until 1972 most of the heroin available on the streets here came from opium grown in Turkey. Labs in Istanbul, Beirut and Aleppo converted the crude opium into morphine base, which was then made into heroin in labs located chiefly in France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany. The refined heroin was brought to the United States by a variety of routes, the major ports of entry being New York, Miami, New Orleans and Seattle. After 1972. agreements with the Turkish government substantially reduced the Turkish opium supply, and the major sources of heroin shifted to Southeast Asia and Mexico. The Golden Triangle, where Thailand. Laos and Burma meet, is now-said to contain the world's greatest concentration of heroin refineries. Mexican heroin, previously hard to find outside the border towns of the Southwest, has for the past few years been turning up in quantity all over the country. The feds say that over 70 percent of the American heroin supply comes out of Mexico. The opium poppies are grown in the state of Sinaloa, and most of the refining seems to be done in the city of Culiocan. Phoenix and San Diego have become major points of entry.
Identifying the sources of the heroin flowing into the country is not much more than an historical game. Heroin manufacturing consumes at best only a small percentage of the world's current opium production, which in turn is only a small percentage of what could be grown if the demand became greater. And when political anil economic pressure reduces the supply from one area, another quickly takes up the stack. Indeed, the manufacturing and marketing of heroin is a classic example of capitalist economics. Fueled by very high profits, demand never seems to go unsupplied, and new supplies always seem available to meet new demands.
Just how profitable the heroin trade is. is best demonstrated in a breakdown of the price structure at various levels of the business. The figures given are fairly accurate as of 1972. Since then the street price of illicit heroin, like that of all drugs, has just about doubled; and the prime sources of supply have shifted from Turkey to Mexico and Southeast Asia. The way the trade operates, however, has not changed in any
"The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use."
William S. Burroughs Evergreen Review, ¡an. ¡Feb. 1960
fundamental way. (There are reasons for giving these outdated figures: For one tiling, there isn't enough hard data available to give the current price breakdown with any degree of certainty. There wasn't that much in 1972 cither, but there was more than there is now because the marcs were spending the bulk of their time on heroin eases. Since then they've been concentrating on cocaine. For another, while the retail price of heroin has certainly just about doubled, it doesn't necessarily. follow that the wholesale prices have. They probably have, but I'm not sure enough about this to simply double the prices and pass them off as the current price structure.)
Here, then, is a description of the trade as it operated in 1972 when it originated mainly from Turkey:
. Growers sold crude opium to opium brokers for $25 a kilo.
. The crude opium was sold to labs located near the growing regions for $29-$30 a kilo. The labs converted this to morphine base: 10 kilos of crude opium make one kilo of morphine base. . Morphine base sold to hero in-refining labs for $500 a kilo.
. The labs sold 85 95-percent heroin for $2,000 per kilo to brokers who arranged bulk sales to U.S. Sometimes lab and brokerage were managed independently but usually were under the same
management. . The $2,000 pr ice was for bulk lots. 100 kilos or more. Ten-kilo buyers paid $3,000 per kilo, one-kilo buyers S4,500. . The landed price to big importers in the U.S. ranged from $6,000-$8,000 per kilo. They usually fronted half the price and paid the balance on delivery. Smaller importers had a variety of ¿mangemerits-from bringing it in themselves, to fronting the total price, to paying the total pr ice on delivery. In this last situation, the price was naturally considerably higher than the figure quoted.
. The big importers usually didn't wholesale in lots smaller than 10 kilos at $I0,000-$13,000> an uncut kilo. The 10 kilo buyer might have sold keys cut to 30- 45-percent heroin for $15,000 $18,000 a key; he might run a factory operation cutting and packaging for the street, or he might do both. The one-kilo buyer had similar options working with smaller quantities. The one certain thing is that no dealer able to buy only a kilo was likely to see an uncut kilo. , To sum up so far, by the time 10 kilos of crude opium selling for $250 reached New York wholesalers as one kilo of heroin, it was worth anywhere from $ 10,0€0-$36,000 depending on who was doing what with it.. The retail markup generated another large load of cash. According to N.YJPJXs Narcotics Lab, the average street bag of smack contains one-third grain of heroin. At this rate, an 85-percent pure key of heroin will yield 40,000 bags. At an average price of $5 a bag, this brings in $200,000.
The BNDD, predecessor of the DEA, estimated that 20,000 kilos of heroin entered the country in 1972. If this were so, the annual American heroin trade was worth more than 3.5 billion dollars. But the BNDD estimate was based on a considerable underestimation of the user population, and it is more likely that at least 30,000 kilos were being brought in each year. At this rate the annual trade generated some $5.25 billion. And at the current prices the annual dollar volume is probably twice this amount. . Anyway you slice it, this is a great deal of money. And when this kind of money is available, there is never a shortage of people eager to get a piece- of the action-which, of course, wouldn't be there except for the black-market inflation caused by the drug laws. Legal heroin in England sells for approximately 15 cents a grain, illegal heroin in New York now sells for from $15 to $30 a grain depending on where and from whom you buy iu, Put another way, the drug laws protect the seller's market. .
Nothing law enforcement has been able to do has ever managed to seriously disrupt the flow of heroin into the United States. Some 250 million
: "It is difficult to live without opium after having \ known it because it is difficult, after knawinp opium, to take earth .seriously, And unless one is a saint, it ia difficult to live without taking the earth seriously."
(tun Cedcau Opium, 183W
people enter ihe country each year in motor vehicles, airplanes, trains and ships; there are thousands of miles of coastline and thousands of miles of border shared with Canada and Mexico. There is simply no way to adequately keep such a situation tinder surveillance. Even if there were, as Spinoza observed in the seventeenth century, "...men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit, laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden ... " And what heroin dealers may lack in ingenuity they usually are able to make up in cash. Corruption is so matter-of-fact among narcs, for example, that the Knapp Commission found that there were standard fees-$5,000 for changing testimony and $50,000 for the sale of incriminating conversations back to the dealer. The feds were equally corrupt.. Back in the late 1960s, 60 out of 80 agents assigned to the BNDD's New York district were dismissed for having been involved in the selling of heroin.
The public has supported the law enforcement effort to suppress the nonmedical use of opiates because it has been convinced by a 60-year propaganda campaign that opiate tise, and especially heroin use, poses a teirible threat to the public welfare. The major myths developed in this campaign have done more than influence the country's attitudes toward heroin, they have literally formed it. They are:
(1) One shot of heroin and you're hooked. Implicit: in this belief are two other myths-thai heroin is so good that no one who irys it can resist it, and that dependence develops almost immediately. In fact, most studies made in heavy heroin-using areas show that no more than one person in ten likes the experience enough to consider trying it for a second lime. And as the Canadian government's LeDain Commission noted in 1971, the popular notion that ''the opiate narcotic experience is intrinsically so pleasurable, or that physiological dependence develops so rapidly, that mosl who are subjected to it are promptly addicted is without support.". Indeed, ii usually lakes a couple of weeks of shooting two bags a day of good smack to acquire any noticeable dependency.
(2) All heroin users are heroin addicts. Prevalence surveys conducted in 1972 and 1974 yielded
THE EXACTING MISTRESS "It ia rate for an'addict to forsake opium. Opium forsakes him. rainitig everything- It is a substance which asoajw» analysis—living, capricious, capable of turning suddenly again*« the «maker. It in the barometer of a diseased sensibility. At times when the weather ia humid, the pipe drips. If an addict goes u> the seaside, the drug swell? and refuses to hum. The approach of snow. u storm or the mistral deatreys its efficacy. Some noisy surroundings can take away all its virtues.
"In short, there is no mistreat more exacting than this drug, which !akt* jealousy to the point of emasculating the addict.'
Jwtn Cjctfl.-.u Opium, IBS)
estimates of 700,000 to 800,000 active heroin users. Of course, as the interviewers admitted, most people were not likely to admit to such an activity. And as a 1976 Drug Abuse Council study revealed, the actual number of heroin users in the country was probably closer to 4 million. A large majority of these people were neither addicted to heroin, nor had they ever sought treatment for addiction. Interviews with 40 of these nonaddicted heroin users brought out some interesting facts. Unlijce the typical junkie attitude of ''the more dope the better,'1 they carefully avoided buijding tolerance to heroin by spaGJiig out their use. Typically they did heroin on the weekends or on special occasions; they didn't indulge in daily use. This practice had advantages that went beyond avoiding addiction-it minimized the cost of their pleasure and maximized the drug's effects.
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