It’s hard to grasp how world events impact the illegal drug market. After all, illegal drugs seem so personal. They affect you or someone you know and love. You see their impact every day. Drugs may seem local, but many of the street drugs found today are a commodity traded on world markets. It’s just that these markets are underground, illegal and, yes, dangerous.
World events shape the economics of most industries. A drought in one country may lead to famine in another or higher prices for grain or livestock. A natural disaster such as a hurricane can destroy ports and reduce fishing. Wars can impact trade between nations.
The same changes that shape the markets for grain, livestock, oil and other natural resources also shape the markets for illegal drugs. A change or disaster in one country can impact the entire world market.
The Scope of the Global Drug Trade
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 430 to 450 tons of heroin enter the global market each year, primarily from Asia. Cocaine accounts for 712 tons, primarily from South America. Millions of dollars worth of raw materials flow from one country to another for processing and distribution.
The 2015 World Drug Report, also published by the UN, studied the impacts of cannabis, amphetamines, opiates and cocaine around the world. According to this report, 246 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 worldwide use some type of illegal drug. That’s about 1 out of every 20 people using drugs. Any time there’s a change in the global drug market, millions are affected.
The Drug Market and the Economy
The White House estimates that the cost of drug use in the workforce accounts for $193 billion, with $120 billion in lost productivity and the rest of the loss a mix of healthcare and criminal costs. The United States is quite a large country, but you can imagine the impact of the drug market worldwide. It is exponential.
The immediate economic impacts of the international drug market include:
- Lost productivity: Workers taking drugs aren’t performing at their best. People who abuse drugs may not pay attention to their work and may make mistakes. They may not be able to complete the same amount of work in a given day that their sober colleagues can. The resulting loss of productivity affects the immediate companies they work for but also the global marketplace as the losses add up.
- Higher healthcare costs: Those who abuse drugs worldwide are at greater risk for many types of illnesses. Shared needles can lead to HIV/AIDs, hepatitis and other debilitating illnesses that may lead to death. Governments worldwide are overwhelmed caring for the needs of their most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and children, and the added burden of caring for those ill from drug abuse just adds to the total healthcare costs.
- Increased treatment costs: The U.N. report states that cocaine, heroin and cannabis are the most frequently abused drugs worldwide. Approximately 4.5 million people worldwide seek treatment for drug abuse at a cost of $35 billion annually. Experts estimate that if everyone worldwide received the necessary treatment for drug abuse, the cost would rise to $200 billion or greater.
- Decreased public safety: Another important economic impact of drugs on the global community is decreased public safety. Where there’s drug abuse, there is a higher risk of crime. The drug trade itself is illegal and considered a crime almost everywhere in the world.Along with the manufacture and sale of drugs come other crimes, such as property crimes, burglaries, rapes, murders, assaults and other violent and non-violent crimes. DUI and similar crimes also increase as more people drive under the influence. These can lead to accidents against non-drug users and an overall decrease in public safety.
- Increased police costs: As crime rises, more law enforcement officers are needed to patrol the streets and investigate crimes. This increases the costs of local police forces, other law enforcement professionals, jails and prisons.
- Environmental impacts: Crops grown for the drug trade such as cocoa for cocaine in South America and poppies for heroin production throughout Asia and the Middle East use up valuable land. This is land that could be used to grow other crops for food, fuel, cooking oil, livestock fodder or raw materials for the textile industry.Old-growth forests and rainforests in South America are clear-cut to grow plants that can produce cocaine. Chemicals used to treat areas growing opium-producing and cocaine-producing plants wash into streams and rivers, polluting drinking water for the neediest citizens. Production of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines pollutes the local environment so badly it creates a nightmare for local cleanup crews to make the area habitable again.
How Does the Economy Affect the Impact of Illegal Drugs on Women and Children
Illegal drug use has terrible consequences for all people worldwide, but especially for women and children. Many who live in impoverished areas caught in the web of international drug production find themselves with no way to escape the violence and crime. Their children lack education, and they lack the means or opportunity to find employment except in the illegal drug trade.
Children raised in war-torn parts of the world that are also used to raise opium poppies are often recruited as soldiers and workers with the promise of easy access to drugs as a reward. Not only do these children become addicted, they often sell drugs to raise money for their families.
Both women and children living in countries producing drugs may find themselves caught up in sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. So-called “street kids” often become addicted to drugs to numb the pain of sexual abuse. They may be exposed to drugs by adults seeking to exploit them so that they are more easily controlled by their captors who use them as part of the sex trade.
The economic impacts of the global drug market not only harm the economy but hurt the lives of innocent people, too.
The Drug Market and International Relations
Drug cultivation, production and trafficking seems to accompany strife among nations. International relations refers to the relationships, treaties and communications between the governments of nations. When these relationships are strained or broken, it affects the drug market.
The recent wars and uprisings throughout the Middle East are proof of the effects of political disturbances on the international drug market. As Western nations invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, traditional government structures broke down. Local tribes and cartels stepped into the gap to take advantage of the upheavals and produce more drugs. Today, the opium poppy trade in Afghanistan has experienced a renaissance thanks to the unrest in that country.
But it’s not just Afghanistan leading this resurgence. Global trade routes for opium poppies and heroin extend through Tajikistan and Russia. The breakup of the former Soviet Union has also led to increased drug trafficking. Under communism, the central leadership could maintain strict control over the countries in the Soviet bloc to slow the movement of drugs. Without this central leadership, traffickers find drugs easier to move among countries.
Worldwide, the relationships among countries can lead to improved police efforts to stop drug trafficking or a blind eye turned toward incoming shipments. Shifting alliances and treaties can affect global trade routes.
National Security and Drug Trafficking
Drug trafficking can also be a major security threat to countries, which gives them another important reason to try to halt the drug trade. When drugs can be smuggled into countries, so can weapons. This can make it easier for terrorists to purchase weapons to use against innocent civilians.
Although international relationships can make drugs easier to traffic, they can also make it much harder for drugs to be moved across national boundaries. The European Union has made extensive efforts to work with Central Asian governments to halt the trade of illegal drugs and to give them whatever support is necessary to disrupt the production and manufacture of drugs. The United States is working with governments throughout Central and South America to stem the tide of incoming drug shipments.
International relations and drug trafficking are clearly tied. But it’s local supply and demand that ultimately control drug trafficking. If more people stop taking drugs, there will be fewer drugs made because the demand will dry up.
The Drug Market and Natural Disasters
Natural disasters include hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods. These disasters often have a lasting economic impact on areas hit the hardest by the event. Sections of New Orleans, for example, continue to be devastated from the impacts of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Drugs produced from plants such as the opium poppy, cannabis or cocoa leaves are impacted the most by the economics of natural disasters. But all drug trafficking may be impacted by disasters such as earthquakes, which can devastate local communities, disrupt shipping and trade routes, and destroy cropland.
Natural disasters not only destroy areas where drugs are made or shipped. They also induce the people involved in the drug trade to take risks with their own health and safety to maintain their drug habit.
A report found on the National Institute of Health’s website indicates poor drug sellers and users in New Orleans decide to stay in the city during Hurricane Katrina:
- They took a chance because maintaining their habit was more important to them than their own personal safety.
- This impacted not only the people who decided to stay, but the police and other emergency responders who then had to travel into the flooded city to rescue the citizens who stayed behind.
Another unexpected impact from Hurricane Katrina was that those drug dealers who relocated to nearby Houston, Texas to avoid the brunt of the storm, found new “friends” in the city. They made deals with drug dealers from Mexico, who introduced them to new products and new trade routes.
When these dealers returned to New Orleans, they took with them their new contacts and increased supplies. Drug problems in New Orleans surged after Katrina thanks to this migration of dealers back and forth with their new Texan counterparts.
It’s not just the dealers returning to New Orleans who created problems. Evacuees from New Orleans brought with them a taste for drugs, and dealers in Houston rushed to fill the demand. The fear, uncertainty and shock of losing everything also pushed many people into drug use to escape the emotional upheaval that accompanied the natural disaster. Rehab facilities were unavailable – a victim of Katrina themselves.
With this increased drug use came increased crime. Murder, theft and other crimes rose in cities that welcomed many of these evacuees. Ripple effects from drugs, crime and natural disasters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. The hurricane not only impacted residents in the affected areas but also those who tried to help many of the residents.
Natural Disasters Lead to Economic Voids
Many of the areas in Central America known for drug trafficking are also the most prone in that region to natural disasters. According to The Economist, four of the seven Central American countries are listed among the 20 worldwide most prone to natural disasters. These countries are also known for their drug trade.
When natural disasters strike, such as an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, already-impoverished people in the region are further displaced. Criminal gangs and warlords are more interested in maintaining the status quo and flow of drugs into their target countries than they are feeding the local people whose fields may have been ruined by a volcano or a hurricane. The resulting increase in poverty, malnutrition and starvation adds to the misery of the areas, according to The Economist.
The magazine notes Columbia, Bolivia and Peru produce almost the entire world’s supply of cocaine, and the majority of it is shipped into the United States. If the routes between the countries become disrupted by natural disasters, the local people suffer. The organized crime groups behind the drug trade will divert government resources intended to help natural disaster victims to help their own economic self-interests. This means using money, people and tools to rebuild drug factories, labs and farms rather than to rebuild roads, schools and hospitals.
Insecurity comes with a high cost. When both man and nature make people feel insecure, they aren’t likely to think about their future. For regions such as Central America that are prone to natural disasters as well as known drug trafficking areas, this insecurity has great impact:
- It makes it difficult for companies to invest in the local economies and create jobs.
- Companies don’t want to open factories in areas prone to earthquakes or other natural disasters. Jobs move elsewhere, leaving behind poverty.
- Drug lords and cartels move in to fill that gap with jobs that seem to produce money, even at the cost of human lives.
It’s a vicious cycle only a decrease in drug demand can fix. While the world can’t fix all natural disasters, we can find a way to halt the demand for drugs.
Drugs: A Global Problem with an Individual Solution
Whether you think we’re winning the war on drugs or we’re at a stalemate, it’s definitely a global war. There’s not one corner of the world unaffected by illegal drugs.
Whether it’s the economic impact of drug use, the personal impact, the impact of natural disasters or the impact among nations, drug abuse influences every nation in some way.
So what can be done about the global problem of drug abuse? The global drug market is run by criminal elements that have organized into sophisticated units. These units are run like businesses, armies or other groups with known leaders, generals and soldiers.
Many countries have taken the war on drugs seriously and are committing resources to fight the manufacture, sales and distribution of drugs. Those countries that take a two-pronged approach and also work to eliminate global poverty and hunger will also make better strides against drug use.
Often, it’s poverty and hunger that drive people into the drug trade. Everyone wants a better life for themselves. No parent wants their child to go hungry. They may agree to grow or produce drugs because there’s no other alternative they can see to rise out of poverty. If given the opportunity, however, maybe these people will choose other ways to work.
Drug markets are indeed affected by global forces. Although these forces seem huge and untouchable, all big forces are made up of smaller elements. In the case of the illegal drug market and the international drug market, those big elements break down into:
Ending the Drug Scourge
When each of us does our part to end drug dependency, we are like tiny drops of water dripping onto a rock. When enough of us come together to work against drug use and heal our relationship with drugs, we form a stream. That stream can surge into a river when whole families and communities work to be drug free.
It may seem like a dream, but just remember, the Grand Canyon was once a giant rock formation that tiny drops of water acted upon. It took a long time, but those drops of water formed into a stream. Eventually, they were able to carve one of the most majestic natural wonders the world has ever known.
The steps you take to end your addiction to drugs and alcohol, added with other people’s efforts, can actually help make the world a better place. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s true.
So get the help you need today to quit drugs and alcohol. It’s waiting for you at 12 Keys.
Recovery Begins at 12 Keys
Now that you know about the global drug market, what about your own life? Are you ready to take a step in the right direction and change your relationship to drugs, to yourself, and to your family?
If you are, take a look at 12 Keys. We’re a recovery center located along the Florida waterfront. Our facility is like a big, comfortable house where everyone is a friend and everyone cares. Many on our staff have experienced drug addiction themselves, and they know and understand what you are going through.
We look at each person as an individual with unique needs. That means there’s no cookie-cutter approach to recovery here. Instead, we work with you to create a specific recovery program that addresses your body, mind and spiritual needs.
Programs that help people recover from drug and alcohol abuse include individual and group therapy and counseling sessions, 12-step meetings, and other programs to help you learn the tools and skills of recovery.
More importantly, we help you learn that living sober can be fun. Horseback riding adventures, fishing and other outdoor activities introduce you to some of the fun that waits for you when you’re sober.
Quitting drugs and alcohol can seem like a big step. Fortunately, the 12 Keys model is one we’ve seen work for countless people over the years. No matter how long you’ve been taking drugs or how bad you think your life is, there’s someone at 12 Keys who can help you. We know what it’s like. We’ve been there. We can help you move on and live sober and healthy again.
If you’re ready to take the first step, contact us today. Someone is available to speak to you 24/7. Most insurance is accepted, and we can answer any questions you may have about your stay with us when you call.