According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Mexican drug cartels have made their way into the Columbia/Midlands region of South Carolina. Previously, illegal drugs were most often produced and trafficked in the region by local residents.
Now however, Mexican cartels have infiltrated the state. Leaving drugs behind but exporting the profits back to Mexico. Marijuana remains the most popular drug, but heroin is increasing rapidly due to production, profitability, and demand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics reveal that heroin usage is becoming increasing common nationwide, not just South Carolina. The hardest hits area are in the rust belt, the northeastern states which include Wisconsin down to Kentucky, then back up again all the way to Maine.
It largely has to do with the popularity of prescription painkillers, which are widely thought to be a gateway drug to heroin. When the patient can no longer get a prescription for painkillers, such as OxyContin, they turn to the cheaper and more available heroin. Also, people are using heroin at twice the rate they did 10 years ago.
Additionally, law enforcement and physicians have cracked down on the availability of prescription painkillers and the ingredients often used to make methamphetamine, a drug often produced locally.
Many are alarmed and fear that the increased presence of cartels will affect families and children. There is also a possibility that it will unfairly incite negative feelings about law-abiding Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the area, which are many. Also, cartel members may try to infiltrate Mexican communities in order to cover up their illegal activities.
Mexican drug cartel activity has, in general, been increasing in South Carolina for many years. Television station WISTV 10 revealed in a 2015 investigation that money services business have been laundering billions of dollars to Mexican cartel, drug traffickers in Columbia, and Hezbollah members based out of Latin America.
Other Disturbing Statistics
According to the coroner’s office, there were 25 heroin deaths by overdose in Lexington County in 2015. Currently, there are three deaths by heroin suspected in 2016, pending toxicology reports.
The Richland Sherriff’s Department’s Narcotics Unit Capt. Brain Godfrey revealed that at least 162 heroin cases were on record, and that is probably not yet complete. That’s a big increase from 97 cases (2014), and just 28 cases (2013). Also, according to the coroner’s office Richland County had 9 heroin overdose fatalities in 2015, and 3 so far in 2016.