Illicit Drug Trafficking 5
data, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia (in that order) produce most of the
annual coca bush/leaf supply, although smaller, insignificant amounts
are also grown and potentially cultivated in Chile, Ecuador, and Vene-
zuela depending on the year (United Nations, 2010). However, in more
recent years, the vast majority of coca bushes are grown in Colombia, and
the majority of the refining of the coca leaves into usable cocaine powder
(a process that involves multiple steps, various chemicals, and trained
laborers) also occurs in Colombia (United Nations, 2010).
Trafficking of cocaine, and other illicit drugs, is determined to some
degree by geographic proximity, direction and distance to viable con-
sumer markets, available methods of transportation (discussed later),
ready access to transshipment zones (which serve as temporary conduits
between source countries and end-user markets), and effectiveness of law
enforcement interdiction efforts (discussed later). The largest proportion
of cocaine (approximately 40%) is distributed and consumed in North
America (Office of National Drug Control Strategy, 2016a) and estimates
suggest that about 90 percent of cocaine seized by law enforcement as a
part of the Cocaine Signature program originates in Columbia (Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, 2015). Therefore, a
large proportion of cocaine is transported to the United States via Cen-
tral America and Mexico and through a wide range of Caribbean trans-
shipment countries (e.g., Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, the Dominican
Republic, and Haiti) and uninhabited islands (Drug Enforcement Admin-
istration, 2016) where law enforcement and interdiction efforts are uneven
or, in many cases, absent altogether. Western Europeans consume another
quarter of the cocaine that is available in any given year, necessitating traf-
ficking across the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the European cocaine is moved
via shipping containers, and again, much of it derives from Colombia, but
also Bolivia and Peru. Smaller amounts of cocaine are trafficked to Africa,
again primarily across the Atlantic Ocean into western and southern Afri-
can countries (United Nations, 2010).
Heroin continues to serve as one of the primary drugs of abuse world-
wide. There are an estimated 12.9 to 21 million opiate users (opiate use can
include opium, morphine, heroin, and opiate-based prescription drugs)
worldwide, many of whom are primarily heroin users or will become her-
oin users in the future (United Nations, 2012). More recent evidence sug-
gests the extent of use, abuse, and damage is on the rise, in part because
many prescription drugs are opioid-based, and many who become depen-
dent on prescription painkillers will migrate to illegal heroin markets over
time (Abuse of Prescription Pain Medications Risks Heroin Use, 2014).
Heroin can be injected, inhaled, or smoked, and all three methods of use
deliver a rapid surge of euphoria for users. Chronic use of heroin leads to
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