Illegal Drug Trade
Drug smuggling is the term given to the act of transporting drugs which may be inter-country, inter-state or inter-regional. Drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and other club drugs are usually manufactured in one region of the world and transported to the rest of the world by drug syndicates and organized crime. Laws preventing this activity are severe worldwide, yet despite this the trade and trafficking of drugs continue
Drug trafficking contributes to worldwide crime rates significantly. Violence associated with the drug trade often is centered around the movement of drugs between locations and distribution of drugs. Organized crime and drug syndicates threaten, bribe and coerce governments and law enforcement into allowing drugs to cross borders without delay. For communities, drug trafficking can mean an increase in gang related crimes, violence, poverty, addiction levels and abuse.
Smuggling Drugs and Drug Mules
A mule is the person who is employed to smuggle drugs across borders. The mule will hide the drug on their body or in an item they are transporting which may include in suitcases, makeup, animals, souvenirs or other nondescript items. A mule may also strap the drugs to their body, ingest the drugs or insert the drugs into their anus or vagina. When the drug is ingested, it is typically inside balloons, latex gloves, condoms or inside capsules. This is incredibly dangerous, as if the balloon or container ruptures there is an high risk of dying from toxic overdose.
Some mules agree to transport drugs out of their own interest in making money. This is particularly true in certain regions of the world where tourists become entranced with the idea of making money from drugs. Tourists may also find themselves on the end of an offer that is hard to refuse, whether for financial reasons or a threat of violence. In some cases, mules are people who smuggle drugs as part of a larger operation of human trafficking and are forced to transport the drugs with fear of violence and death.
In all cases of drug trafficking, the person doing the transportation faces the most risks and the individuals behind the operation do not. The financial benefits of taking the drugs are significantly less than the value of the drugs, the mule faces very serious health risks, including death, and they are at risk of being caught by law enforcement and jailed.
Illegal Drug Profits and Demand
Globally, over 200 million people take drugs every year. Demands for drugs such as cocaine and heroin have remained stable for many years and this contributes to the worldwide trafficking of drugs. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that world heroin consumption levels are approximately 340 tons However, annual worldwide trafficking of heroin amounts to nearly 450 tons. This means that nearly 100 tons are seized annually worldwide through the efficient and skilled work of world law enforcement bodies.
Opium, predominantly in the form of heroin, is produced in Afghanistan with much of the remaining from Myanmar and Laos. From these regions of production, heroin is transported all around the world through various illegal methods. Farmers who grow opium do not benefit from the large profits that drug syndicates make from their distribution.
The worldwide demand for illegal drugs and the profits that are easily made from the manufacture, trafficking and distribution of drugs are the reasons that people become involved in the drug trade. The drug trade is a multi-billion dollar business and the risks appear to outweigh the benefits for many people.
Drugs and Crime
Drug trafficking is the critical link between supply and demand. This funds a global criminal business worth billions of dollars. This poses a significant challenge to worldwide stability and security. At a community level, drug distribution including trafficking contributes to social disorganization, unemployment levels, gang violence, homicides and assaults. For governments, this can mean that individuals who are even at the most senior levels can be affected and influenced by drugs and criminal organizations.
Violent crimes associated with drug distribution is common. The occurrence of street level violence to enforce organizational discipline or resolve business disputes is high and these disputes are typically over drug purchases. Trading in illicit substances can lead to drug related violence as drug dealers and distributors compete against one another for markets and customers. Violence and gang crime is becoming an increasing problem for governments and law enforcement.
In some areas, such as Mexico, the affect of the illegal trafficking of drugs and influence of organized crime is immense. In the past 4 years, nearly 35,000 people had been killed as a result of the illegal drug trade. This number includes gang members, innocent members of the community and law enforcement officers. In this region, violent organized criminal units called drug cartels operate and transport millions of dollars of drugs from the cocaine producing regions of South America to the United States of America and to other regions of the world.