Investigative reports have shown that 8 U.S. soldiers died from a heroin overdose or by mixing prescription and other opiate drugs during 2010/2011.
The United States Army Criminal Investigation Command has released a report on 56 U.S. soldiers who were investigated on suspicion of using, possessing or distributing heroin and other opiates. Of the 56 soldiers, 8 have died from an overdose.
CNN reports that the death of the 8 soldiers was shown to be caused by heroin toxicity or by taking a mix of opiate and prescription drugs.
Statistics prepared by the military also indicate that the number of U.S. soldiers based in Afghanistan who tested positive for heroin has risen from 10 in 2002 up to 116 in 2010.
President of the Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton has said that his group has been investigating soldiers' drug use partly due to incidences during the Vietnam War.
He said: "You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan. Our concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country?
He added: "There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use. Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more."
Fitton said that the group is concerned that "there hasn't been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly."
The United Nations performed a study in 2009 which revealed that Afghanistan supplies approximately 90% of the world's opium. This is also believed to be a main source of income for the Taliban economy.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that farmer income from the cultivation of the poppy crop was USD 1.4 billion (or EUR 1.9 billion) n 2011 and this figure accounts for 9% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Reports further state that more than 131,000 hectares were used for opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2011, which is up by 7% on the previous year.
Despite the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, insecurity continues to climb in the country. The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central command have reported that the death toll of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has now reached more than 1,850 since 2011.