Trafficking of illegal and legal drugs is one of the toughest crimes to contain. By whole crime and investigation organizations around the world of this offence have been challenged.
Even the toughest of the toughest are beaten when it comes to handling drug related crime and eradicating it completely.
Drug trafficking is less in countries where economic freedom is greater and larger in those where corruption, trade regulations or legal monopolies restrict economic activity and freedom.
Countries with drug trafficking as a problem usually have a legislation that restricts or prohibits the possession or sale of drugs, most commonly psychoactive drugs.
This makes potential drug buyers and sellers unable to transact in the open. With this, only illegal drug trade remains an option, and when such trade occurs a black market is born.
Curbing drug trafficking has been an extremely difficult task simply because it has grown into a well monitored and organized trade. The trade of drugs has existed for as long as the drugs themselves have existed.
However, the trade of drugs was fully legal until the introduction of drug prohibition. The history of the illegal drug trade is thus closely tied to the history of drug prohibition.
Illegal drug trade has been part of the global black market and has become an underground economy for many countries that are involved in the trade. This trade has flourished speedily mainly because all taxes and regulations of trade are avoided and eluded.
The drug trade involves growers, producers, couriers, suppliers, dealers and users and affects people in almost all parts of the world. Since the drug transaction itself is illegal, any participants in the trade are by definition criminal.
Drug cartels specialize in different sectors of the supply chain. They are usually limited to a small area (localized) so as to minimize damages and maximize production efficiency.
These cartels vary in size and starting at the baseline, the process begins. The cycle starts with the low level street dealers who buy from street gangs who buy from contractors like middle men who in turn work for multinational empires that rival governments in size.
Illegal drugs that are natural are grown in wildernesses, caves, farms and indoor or outdoor residential gardens. On the other hand, artificial drugs are manufactured in drug labs which are found in residential areas or in abandoned facilities or buildings.
These production locations are usually very discreet to avoid detection and are rooted and found within any ordinary setting of a society.
The types of drugs that are trafficked and smuggled vary and are mostly categorized under psychoactive drugs for example; cocaine, opium, morphine, heroin, inhalants, cannabis (marijuana), and hashish. Prescription drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy), hydrocodone, methamphetamine, amphetamine, Oxy Contin, Viagra, sleeping pills are among many others that are increasingly being smuggled and abused.
According to the UN office on Drugs and Crime, “Nearly 200 million people are using these drugs worldwide. Cannabis and hashish leads by far with 162 million users. Methamphetamine, amphetamine, ecstasy and Oxy Contin follow with 35 million users. Globally an estimated 16 million people use opium, morphine, heroin, inhalants and some 13 million people use cocaine alone. Cocaine use in Western Europe is of particular concern, where consumption is reaching alarming levels. Cannabis, which is grown and used all over the world, is changing. The drug’s influence has increased in recent years, and there are indications that cannabis-related mental health risks may have been underestimated. Opiate use levels along the trafficking routes originating from Afghanistan, the world’s top opium producer, are the highest anywhere.”
Legal drugs too like alcohol and tobacco can be the subject of smuggling and illegal trading if the price difference between the origin and the destination are high enough to make it profitable. If a large price difference exists without legal restrictions, then legal trade of drugs can take place between the two markets.
Drug abuse and the problems associated with it continue to grow in most parts of the world. The global abuse of drugs and the drug trafficking situation is becoming more complex, in part due to political and economic changes around the world which have led to increasingly open borders between many countries.
Curbing drug trafficking has become a great challenge for international crime fighting authorities due to number of setbacks that slow down the process.
The biggest global challenge is the influence of the black market players on whole societies. The corruption levels in poor societies are so overwhelming and this makes the organized crime lords take charge and influence the government system itself as is the case in Colombia.
The consumption of illegal drugs is globally wide spread and has become more difficult to contain. This is partly due to the emergence of a more wealthy class of drug abuser with higher disposable income to spend on the so-called ‘recreational’ drugs.
There is a rise in demand and availability for almost all types of controlled substances and drugs around the world. As a result the efforts of smugglers to make available these drugs to customers have become expensive.
In their bid to avoid taxation, high costs are incurred in protecting the trade routes from law enforcements and this eventually leads to inflated prices.
It would be an oversight to ignore the fact that the world is experiencing a period of cultural changes brought about by globalization and rapid communications.
Underdeveloped countries always look at the change in trends of the developed countries and with the internet and mobile phones, all corners of the world are in touch. This makes the process of recruitment and orientation of new drug users easy and smooth.
During his message on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “We still have much work to do to reduce vulnerability to drugs. States with a weak criminal justice system and limited law enforcement capabilities need assistance in reducing illicit drug trafficking which spreads crime corruption and instability. This ultimately decreases and endangers the successful realization of the Millennium Development Goals.”
On the other hand we can not ignore the fact that drug trafficking is frequently linked to other serious crimes such as people and weapon smuggling, organized prostitution, armed robbery, and counterfeiting travel-documents and money laundering. Unfortunately, all these activities yield extremely high profits that are a motivational factor number for the people involved in the illegal business.
And further more, it is sad to note that the money is often used to finance the more violent and destructive activities of criminal and terrorist organizations.
However, all is not lost in the fight against illicit drug trafficking as efforts have been increased to curb this problem.
More vessels and containers containing drugs en-route have been captured by law enforcement agencies and billions of dollars are lost. This is enough promise to crack down a whole organized drug chain and put this trade out of business.