Illegal drug trade  

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The drug trade is a worldwide black market consisting of production, distribution, packaging and sale of illegal psychoactive substances. The illegality of the black markets purveying the drug trade is relative to geographic location, and the producing countries of the drug markets (many South American, Far East, and Middle East countries) are not as inclined to have "zero-tolerance" policies, as the consuming countries of the drug trade (mostly United States and Europe) are. The economic reality of the massive profiteering inherent to the drug trade serves to extend its reach despite the best efforts of enforcement agencies worldwide. In the wake of the economic reality, the social consequences (crime, violence, imprisonment, social unrest) of the illicit drug trade are undeniably problematic.


Addictive drugs were first prohibited in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An Illegal Drug Trade emerged during the 19th century; China retaliated with imports of opium, and two Opium Wars broke out. In the First Opium War, the Chinese authorities had banned opium, but the United Kingdom forced China to allow British merchants to trade opium with the general population. Smoking opium had become common in the 19th century, and British merchants increased their trade with the Chinese. Trading in opium was (as it is today in the heroin trade) extremely lucrative. As a result of this illegal trade, an estimated two million Chinese people became addicted to the drug. The British Crown (via the treaties of Nanking and Tianjin) took vast sums of money from the Chinese government through this illegal trade, which they referred to as "reparations".

Because drugs traded on the black market can provide a secretive source of money, they have long been used by organizations such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to fund covert operations and proxy wars. CIA involvement in heroin trafficking began with the French Connection in Marseille and continued with anti-Communist operations in Southeast Asia. In the early 1980s, the CIA used cocaine as a medium to launder money in Central America (allegedly as part of the Iran–Contra affair).

See also

illegal drugs

International coordination:

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