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Infographic of the Day: America’s Growing Heroin Problem

As smugglers grow more sophisticated, the drug is flooding into America.

heroin infographic

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Heroin is, apparently, roaring back to life in America. Deadly, ultra-pure black tar heroin has flooded the U.S.–a $10 bag can kill a person immediately. And it’s effects aren’t limited to shooting galleries and street corners. A multi-million dollar trafficking ring was just busted in the wealthy enclave of the Hamptons, where a 21-year-old former cheerleader was caught distributing baggies branded to the target demographic: They were stamped with names such as “Google” and “Privilege.”

To put those stories in context, the AP has produced a series of infographics. To start with, heroin really is killing more and more people across the U.S., as shown in the chart up top. And the numbers really do suggest a massive influx of purer versions of the drug:

heroin infograpic

Note that the heroin seems to be coming largely from Mexico, where local drug lords have apparently found new ways to refine poppy, which has both increased purity and dropped prices. That combination has many worried that, as the economy rebounds, we’re headed toward a new boom in heroin use. (Of course, the elephant in the room is world poppy supply, 90% of which comes from Afghanistan. That crop has boomed after we forced the Taliban from power; previously they had almost eradicated poppy production owing to their religious views. The market is apparently so large that prices have cratered and farmers are scaling back production to cope.)

This map lays out the “relative danger” posed by various drugs, by region. Meth, for example, is a beast in the western U.S….

heroin infographic

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…but heroin appears to be largely a problem of the northeast:

heroin infographic

(Incidentally, the map above is terrifically designed–by rolling over a specific drug, you can see it highlighted in isolation on the various pie charts. Usually, pie charts are the information design equivalent of comic sans, because they don’t let you compare quantities very easily. This simple feature solves most of those problems.)

Check out the AP’s entire series of graphics.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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