[ Subject Matter: Black market in legal medicines
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required]
|Special Agent of the DEA, Rockwell "Rocky" Herron|
Reporter: Rafael Croda
The Special Agent of the DEA, Rockwell Herron, has his centre of operations in San Diego, California, a few kilometres from the frontier with Mexico, but his work doesn't have to do with the Mexican drug trafficking cartels, it is in whats called "The Medicine Cartel", 100% American mafia.
This Cartel, considered the first economic beneficiary for consumers of drugs in the United States, more than 25,000,000,000 dollars per year. Their profits for the illegal sale of prescription medicines is greater than the Mexican Cartels that traffic cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine.
For Agent Herron, The Medicine Cartel is the greater threat. He has spent 8 years investigating it and is convinced that the abuse of medicines that get to the black market is greater than the illicit drugs provided by Latin America.
"We have a problem of illegal drugs and another equal or worse, the consumption of legal medicines that have been acquired illegally, said the DEA Agent to Proceso during a trip to Colombia to give young students talks about the sordid world of drug traffickers.
According to Herron, The Medicine Cartel doesn't have capos or public faces, doesn't have cowboy boots, large belt buckles, huge gold medallions and AK47's slung over their shoulders. You have on the other hand, Doctors in white coats, in plush offices, with the power of your signature on a receipt to provide drugs to millions of United States citizens with addiction problems.
"My work is to investigate the doctors that sell prescriptions, exchange prescriptions for sex and use them to use that power to supply the black market and the illegal consumption of pills", he explained.
The National Institute for the Abuse of Drugs in the United States, NIDA, estimate that 52 million Americans have consumed prescription medicines and that 1 in every 12 secondary school students take opiate analgesic prescription drugs.
Herron, known as Rocky by the students with whom he talks, says that a normal American family doesn't have methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine in their house, but they do have analgesics, anti depressants, and stimulants in the medicine cabinet.
"The youngster go to the bathroom, take some pills and use them. This way they start, and as there are not sufficient pills in the bathroom to supply their demand, they generate a black market for medical prescriptions", he explained.
Among the medicines of major illegal consumption in the United States are the analgesic opiates like, Oxycontin, Percocet (oxicodona), Vocodina, and Methadone. Also the anti depressants and sedatives, like Valium and Xanas, and stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall.
"If the Latin American drugs reach the United States, addicts will continue to use drugs made at home, in laboratories legal or clandestine of acid and amphetamines", said the expert in security and professor of the National University of Colombia, Pablo Reyes.
According to investigations of NIDA, U.S. counties with high average incomes, whose families were victims of the financial crises of 2008 and 2009, thousands of families could no longer afford costly prescription medicines, and so their children who have been using their drugs, started to dabble in illicit hard drugs like heroin.
The Department of Health for the United States considers that the country lives with an epidemic of abuse of heroin that cause over a 100 deaths by overdose every day. According to the institution, between 2007 and 2013 the number of addicts of this drug rose by 172% from 161,000 to 289,000, and of those 85% started with the consumption of prescription medicines.
Herron said that the business of medicines includes passing it across the frontier to Tijuana, where it is more easily acquired by United States citizens.
"There are Mexican traffickers of pills that have arms inside the United States that corrupt doctors, rob pharmacists and give patients false prescriptions. This is the way they supply these medicines.. They are the only drugs that are made in the United States, travel across the border to Mexico, to return to the United States and still give profits", said the Special Agent with 25 years service with the DEA.
For Herron, who thinks that the principal battle front in the war on drugs, is education and prevention, The Medicine Cartel is very dangerous and at this time, for me, the biggest narcos and the doctors of my country that sell prescriptions".
(Otis: doing a little math here, 25 billion in domestic illegal drug sales of prescription medicines, plus the 30 billion handed to Mexican Cartels annually totals 55 Billion dollars per year!, that's a sizable chunk of the total United States Gross Domestic Product of 17.7 trillion in 2014).
Original article in Spanish at Proceso