Drug Trafficking By The Numbers

What is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking is defined as the growing, manufacturing, selling or distribution of substances that are prohibited by law.

Drug trafficking is defined as the growing, manufacturing, selling or distribution of substances that are prohibited by law.

These substances can include a wide variety of drugs. However, some of the most common that law enforcement around the world encounter when combating drug trafficking include:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl

A variety of people can be involved in drug trafficking, making it one of the more challenging crimes for law enforcement to eliminate. Law enforcement professionals around the world must target individuals like growers, distributors, manufacturers and even small-time dealers of drugs to get these substances off the street and help protect society from them.

Further, drug trafficking is not a problem that is relegated to one segment of society or even one location throughout the world. It is a global crime that impacts millions of people and families and can be found taking place in just about every country.

Drug traffickers increasingly use sophisticated methods, such as placing ads on social media sites like Snapchat, to sell their products. Their innovation and widespread reach across the world make it difficult for law enforcement to find and arrest people involved in drug trafficking.

Drug trafficking results in the loss of millions of lives and the destruction of countless families each year.

Drug trafficking results in the loss of millions of lives and the destruction of countless families each year.

It remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies across the globe to eliminate entirely and from which to protect society.

What are the Issues with Drug Trafficking?

A host of issues exist with the booming national and global drug trafficking industry. To start, borders in the U.S., as well as other countries around the world, are becoming increasingly porous. Traffickers find it very easy to cross from Mexico and Canada into the U.S. to transport, distribute and sell their illegal drugs.

Drug trafficking invites a host of associated crimes that victimize a wide portion of the population. Property crimes like theft and burglaries are on the rise in many parts of the country, primarily in large cities like Chicago and New York City. Personal crimes like assaults and muggings likewise continue to escalate.

Drug trafficking is taking a devastating toll on individuals and families across the world. As people become addicted to the illicit substances being trafficked, they increasingly drop out of school, quit their jobs or compromise their productivity at work, which increases the chances of them being fired.

People’s marriages and families fall apart as spouses and children are no longer safe from the consequences of drug use in their homes.

People's marriages and families fall apart as spouses and children are no longer safe from the consequences of drug use in their homes.

Parents cut off or lose contact with their children. Most tragically, people who were formerly healthy, happy and productive succumb to their drug addictions and lose their lives because of their addictions to substances made available to them through drug trafficking.

These issues are but a few that stem directly from drug trafficking. They highlight why law enforcement around the world continues to battle this dire threat to society.

Statistics on Drug Trafficking Overview

The overview of drug trafficking statistics highlight why this crime poses such a danger to society in general and why it remains one of the most challenging problems for law enforcement to resolve. In fact, it is a lucrative industry, with illicit drug growers and manufacturers raking in millions of dollars each year.

Still, the cost to society is equally as expensive. For example, illegal drug trafficking costs American taxpayers over $180 million a year in healthcare costs, as well as costs for law enforcement, legal expenses and lost productivity in the workplace.

illegal drug trafficking costs American taxpayers over $180 million a year in healthcare costs

Further, more than 300,000 people in U.S. prisons are incarcerated in part or solely because of their participation in drug trafficking. This high number further takes a toll on how much taxpayers must cover each year to punish people involved in this crime.

Other statistics involving drug trafficking focus on the prevalence of drugs that make it across the border or are produced locally in the U.S. The percentage of drugs trafficked in the U.S. and for which offenders were convicted include:

  • 24 percent for cocaine and methamphetamine
  • 21 percent for marijuana
  • 13 percent for crack cocaine
  • Close to 10 percent for heroin
  • Just over four percent for oxycodone
  • Three percent for other drugs

A large majority of drugs that are trafficked into the country come via the southern U.S. border. However, traffickers also bring in drugs across the Canadian border, as well as into international airports, to sell their products and make money.

The Current State of Drug Trafficking in the United States

Drug trafficking continues to take a devastating toll on society in the United States. This crime shows no signs of diminishing and remains one of the foremost crimes law enforcement agencies across the U.S. focus on each year.

To help combat this crime, law enforcement officials have gathered some important facts to help understand what state it currently is in. To start, the average age of the typical drug trafficker is not a teenager or young adult. In fact, the average age of drug traffickers in this country is 36.

Moreover, law enforcement agencies have identified five regions in the U.S. where drug trafficking is most prevalent and serve as the entry point for traffickers. These regions include the:

  • Western district of Texas
  • Entire state of Arizona
  • Southern district of Texas
  • Entire state of New Mexico
  • Southern district of California

Drug trafficking negatively impacts every aspect of society, including people who previously had no criminal infractions on their records. More than 49 percent of drug traffickers had no prior convictions. Even more, nearly 70 percent of drug traffickers that get caught each year are American citizens.

More than 49 percent of drug traffickers had no prior convictions.

Finally, the number of people convicted of drug trafficking each year increases. For example, the span of time from 2011 to 2015 saw an increase of 50 percent in the number of people arrested for and convicted of this crime.

Role of the Internet in Drug Trafficking

The Internet has become one of the main ways drug traffickers around the world market and sell their illegal products. They often use social media websites like Snapchat to target young clientele. They also typically market their drugs under other product names that are designed to elude law enforcement and parents.

The Internet has become one of the main ways drug traffickers around the world market and sell their illegal products.

For example, drug traffickers may sell THC-laced products as “spice” or “K2” instead of marijuana or cannabis. In fact, these innocuously named products contain what is known as synthetic cannabinoids, many times at much higher THC levels than what typical marijuana naturally contains.

These products may be found at gas stations or “head” shops, as well as on the Internet, and marketed as bath salts, potpourri or incense. They can carry with them life threatening side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • Heightened blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature

These illegal products can also cause noticeable symptoms like:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Violent tendencies or aggression
  • Psychosis

People who use them may inadvertently harm themselves or others and may need immediate medical attention.

Adulterated/Laced Drugs

Illegal drugs that are manufactured or brought into this country are often taken to other locations to be packaged into smaller portions to sell to buyers. These distributors and packagers likewise often put other ingredients into the drugs to alter or enhance their addictive and pharmacological effects.

These other ingredients, however, can result in serious harm or injury to the people taking the drugs laced with them. They can also increase people’s chances of overdosing and dying from taking drugs they assumed were not laced with other ingredients.

Some of the additional ingredients, known as adulterants, that can be added to illegal drugs trafficked to unsuspecting buyers include:

  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Quinine
  • Paracetamol
  • Procaine

More illicit drugs are also being adulterated with toxic levels of fentanyl, which is causing an increase in overdoses and deaths of people across the U.S.

Alternatively, people who shop online for medications for pain and other common health conditions may inadvertently buy medicines that are adulterated with unsafe ingredients. They may assume they are getting a pain reliever that is safe to take. In reality, this pain reliever may contain harmful additional ingredients like carfentanil, which is 10,000 more potent than normal morphine, or another adulterant known as “pink,” which can seriously harm people and increasingly is being blamed for overdose-related deaths in the U.S.

The Rising Tide of Drug Overdose Deaths

By all accounts, deaths from drug overdoses remain a worrisome trend in society today. In fact, overdoses now account for the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S. It exceeds the number of people killed in car accidents or who die during violent crimes like burglaries and assaults.

Over the course of a 15-year span, the number of people who died from overdoses dramatically increased. Statistics show from 2000 to 2015, the number of victims who succumbed to drug-related overdoses doubled. In that same amount of time, the number of people who died from overdosing on opioids like oxycodone tripled.

Law enforcement and medical professionals around the world caution people to take care with what medications they buy online. They also urge people to get treatment for their drug addictions. People can never be sure of what they are buying and consuming, including whether or not the substances they purchase contain adulterants like fentanyl, carfentanil or “pink.”

References:

  1. https://drugabuse.com/statistics-data/drug-trafficking/ 
  2. https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Drug_Trafficking_FY18.pdf
  3. https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Drug-trafficking 
  4. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/drug-addiction/drug-trafficking-by-the-numbers/ 

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