Former Drug Czar Says US Soldiers in Afghanistan at Risk of Heroin Addiction

While the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, Gen. Barry McCaffrey (a former four-star general who served as the nation's "drug czar" under President Clinton) warned of drug-related dangers facing troops in Afghanistan.

Drug use by U.S. soldiers has doubled in the last four years, Gen. McCaffrey said, and he worries that as more soldiers move from Iraq to opium-laden Afghanistan, the rate of drug problems is going to keep rising.

Gen. McCaffrey said that Afghanistan produced 9,000 metric tons of opium each year, and that unless U.S. destroys a significant amount of that crop, increasing numbers of soldiers will become addicted -- and terrorists will continue to profit.

"I'd be astonished if we don't see soldiers who find 10 kilograms of heroin and pack it up in a birthday cake and send it home to their mother," Gen. McCaffrey said. "The second thing is (soldiers) are going to stick it up their nose and like it."

Talking about the state of American addiction treatment, McCaffrey lamented that although 24 million Americans are chronic substance abusers, only four million now get treatment for their problem.

Although he does not support legalizing marijuana or an end to the war on drugs, Gen. McCaffrey said that drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, even for those in prison, is crucial. "The chamber of commerce will have you have believe is that it's only poor people abusing drugs," he said. It's also anesthesiologists, ICU nurses, [and] healthcare providers."

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