A U.S. Navy destroyer seized nearly 600 pounds of heroin in the Arabian Sea Monday after discovering the stash of drugs during a routine boarding.
The Laboon, a guided-missile destroyer intercepted a small sailing ship March 13 for a flag verification and found the vessel was stateless. While searching the ship, the Navy uncovered 270 kilograms, or nearly 600 pounds, of heroin stashed aboard. The Laboon launched with the George H.W. Bush carrier strike group in January from Norfolk, Va., which U.S. Naval Forces Central Command says is conducting maritime security operations in the region, reports Military.com.
The bust was the first seizure of drugs by a U.S. Navy vessel working with Combined Task Force 150 since 2014, with one official calling it a “big win” for the international coalition. The task force made recent headlines after Arunta, a Royal Australian Navy frigate, uncovered 1,700 pounds of hashish worth an estimated $36 million March 2.
“The impressive work of Combined Task Force 150, under the leadership of Royal Canadian Navy Commodore Haydn Edmundson, continued last night with the second successful seizure of illegal drugs in less than two weeks,” Vice. Adm. Kevin Donegan, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement, according to Military.com. “The March 2 seizure by HMAS Arunta and last night’s seizure by USS Laboon has resulted in preventing more than a thousand kilograms of combined hashish and heroin from reaching their destination and will prevent transnational terrorists from profiting off these nefarious activities.”
International law enforcement is locked in a fight with heroin traffickers profiting off opioid addiction. Heroin continues to flow into the U.S. from cartels in Mexico, but domestic distributors are also increasingly looking to China for synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
While a kilogram of heroin from a Mexican cartel will cost a domestic supplier roughly $64,000, they can order a kilogram of fentanyl through the mail from China for only $2,000.
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.
Authors of the study note in 2010 only eight percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015.
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