Home War on Drugs Is Drug Trafficking Impacting Public Health?

Is Drug Trafficking Impacting Public Health?

Sources of illegal drugs and the impact on Public Health

"Addiction is a powerful illness and recovery is a long and difficult path, but we are making progress,"--- The Whitehouse

Despite the highly controversial talks to create a border wall to prevent illegal immigration, plans devised by the Trump Administration may work to curtail another source of criminal activity closely linked with the war on drugs–drug trafficking. The business of drug trafficking produces an estimated $200-$750 billion annual with our current decade seeing the largest percentage of drug usage among U.S citizens (Recovery Village, 2017). What this means for American citizens is dire consequences in terms of a sense of overall health and well-being and the associated burden of escalating healthcare costs. Drug abuse greatly affects a person’s health and those within the inner circle of support like children, spouse and other immediate family members. From the economic perspective, it progressively increases prevention and treatment cost, hospital stays, missed days from work and U.S. morbidity and mortality rates.

In the past, drug addictions associated with illegal substances were treated much like a criminal act against society and stigmatized as a moral failure. Yet, the issue has grown to touch the lives of so many U.S. citizens that the situation required a change in paradigm and is now being resolved according to public health frameworks that reduce or prevent drug and alcohol addiction. The response from the White House has been geared toward hopefulness that were making progress in the right direction. Congress agrees that drug and alcohol addiction is a treatable disease, and passed legislation that alters the manner by which the federal government will approach addiction. Public Law 114-198 or The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) was enforced by former president, Barack Obama to address the opioid epidemic solidifying six strategic pillars that are necessary to produce a coordinated response–prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal (CADCA, n.d.).

At current, the U.S. is enduring a bill of $422 billion and at the source of the economic problem is the misuse of prescription drugs, illicit drugs or alcohol use (Nesbit, 2016). This reveals the war on drug as a pragmatic societal issue. No stone can be left unturned if we’re to succeed at any of the proposed solutions. This includes the cost associated with the offspring of drug abusers when removed from the home and the increased risk of the addictive behaviors continuing as the child matures into adulthood. It includes the challenges associated with delinquency and education attainment. It includes the risks associated with domestic violence and increased cases of sexually transmitted infections when addicts are involved. More inadvertently, it doesn’t discriminate when socioeconomic factors are included in the mix. The issues with drug addiction and poverty include the misperception that drugs relieve stress. The realism that drugs deplete already stressed incomes and is the source of neglecting familial responsibilities is just the tip of the iceberg of the many problems that low-income persons don’t consider when turning to addiction.

For those who may be wondering where the source of the problems stems from–the focus remains on direct drug trafficking routes from Central and South America into the United States (Recovery Village, 2017). Mexico supplies many of the drugs entering the country from other nations (Recovery Village, 2017). Still yet, America is to blame in the statistics as well, supplying plenty of its own illegal substances (Recovery Village, 2017). In terms of specific drugs, here’s the rundown: the heroin supply in America is transported via South America and Mexico, Mexico is also responsible for two-thirds of the marijuana being consumed in America, and most of the American cocaine supply comes from Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru (Recovery Village, 2017). Finally, prescription drugs are transported from all over the country and those primarily abused by addicts, are manufactured right here within the United States (Recovery Village, 2017).

The U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center (2010) has named Mexican DTOs (Drug Trafficking Organizations) the dominators of the transportation of illicit drugs across the Southwest Border. The most common methods of smuggling overland include the use of commercial trucks, private and rental vehicles to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, and heroin. These substances have been confiscated throughout twenty-five land portals of entry (POE) including vast areas of desert and mountainous terrain between POEs (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010).  Maritime (waterway) smuggling methods have been adopted primarily by Colombian, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan DTOs (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). Although, in smaller amounts than transported by Mexican DTOs, cocaine, heroin and marijuana are smuggled by container ships, cruise ships, commercial fishing vessels, recreation vessels, self-propelled semi-submersibles and go-fast boats (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). Illicit drugs are smuggled by air as well, through couriers and in cargo aboard commercial aircraft–but on a much smaller scale (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). Unfortunately, when these substances make it past border control, they are stashed in ranches, warehouses, residences and trailers near portals of entry into the U.S (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). Bulk quantities have surfaced commingled with legitimated goods on commercial trucks, through postal and package delivery services and even on buses and trains (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010).

For more information on this topic, please read “The Staggering Costs, Monetary and Otherwise, of Substance Abuse.”


Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. (n.d.). Retrieved from The comprehensive addiction and recovery act: http://www.cadca.org/comprehensive-addiction-and-recovery-act-cara

Nesbit, J. (2016, December 19). The Staggering Costs, Monetary and Otherwise, of Substance Abuse. US News.

Recovery Village. (2017). Retrieved from Drug trafficking by the numbers: https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/drug-addiction/drug-trafficking-by-the-numbers/#gref

U.S. Department of Justice. (2010). Retrieved from National Drug Threat Assessment 2010: Drug movement into and within the United States: https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs38/38661/movement.htm


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Jacqueline McClain is an intern with the American Public Safety Training Institute. She is also an MPH student at Benedictine University and will complete the program by the end of August, 2017. She looks forward to using her degree in public health and certificate in epidemiology to make an impact in the field of preventative medicine. Her future aspirations involve completing a training program in field epidemiology and making preparations for transitioning into clinical-based epidemiology.