In jurisdictions where certain addictive drugs are illegal, they are generally supplied by criminal drug dealers, often in the form of organized crime. Trade in them is driven by the neurophysiology of drug addiction, and the economics of greed and poverty.

The addict's need to support the high cost of illegal addictive drugs is one of the major causes of crime. Some estimates place the value of the global trade in illegal drugs at around $400 billion per year (U.S. dollars as of 2000).

Major consumer countries include the United States and European nations, although consumption is world-wide.

As with legal commerce, the illegal drug trade is multi-layered and often multi-national, with layers of manufacturers, processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. Financing is also important, generally involving money laundering to hide the source of the illegal profits. All of these are made more complex by their illegality, but the normal laws of economics still apply, with the efforts of law enforcement regarded by the drug trade as a extra business cost.

The drug trade is a very fragmented industry with the most popular product, marijuana, being grown locally by a large amount of inviduals (without any organization). Similarly drugs like LSD with very low profit margins were sold more for philanthropic reasons then for profit. The main organized drug cartels deal with cocaine, heroin, and MDMA, and it is these that are the primary focus of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. In places where alcohol is illegal, such as Saudi Arabia, it may also be the subject of illegal trading. In the United States during the Prohibition, it was dominated by the Cosa Nostra.

Some prescription drugs are also available by illegal means, eliminating the need to manufacture and process the drugs. Prescription opiates for example, are usually much stronger then heroin found on the street. They are sold primarily via prescriptions from unscrupulous doctors and clinics. However, it is much easier to control traffic in prescription drugs than in illegal drugs.

Legal drugs like tobacco can be the subject of smuggling and illegal trading if the taxes are high enough to make it profitable.

Because disputes cannot be resolved through legal means, participants at every level of the illegal drugs industry are liable to compete with one another through violence. Some of the largest and most violent drug trafficking organizations are known as drug cartels. Two of the most well known recent groups were the Cali Cartel and the Medellin Cartel.

Table of contents
1 Manufacturing and processing
2 Distribution and wholesaling
3 Retail drug dealing and users
4 Fictional deptictions of the illegal drugs trade
5 External links

Manufacturing and processing

Illegal drugs can be broken down into two major classes: those extracted from plants, and those synthesized from chemical precursors. For the first class, such as marijuana and cocaine, the growing area is important, and substantial farming is needed for mass production. For the second class, such as MDMA and methamphetamine, access to chemical precursors is most important.

Major drug farming and manufacturing countries include

Synthetic illegal drugs can either be manufactured in the country of consumption, or abroad.

Distribution and wholesaling

Retail drug dealing and users

Street drug dealing is the bottom of the chain. Street drug dealing is sometimes associated with other crimes such as pimping. Many users also deal as a part-time activity to fund their own drug use.

Fictional deptictions of the illegal drugs trade

See also:

External links